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HOOVER Tl^oilTUTION 
on War t:.volution, and Peace 



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THE WAR 
IN SOUTH AFRICA 



PREPARED IN THE HISTORICAL SECTION OF 

THE GREAT GENERAL STAFF, BERLIN. 
iVm'V V-(>a. . ■ i » l^ < C . ^ •'•V ^ ? v" § " w V ■• ^ .( -, '> 

AUTHORISED TRANSLATION BY 

COLONEL W. H. H. WATERS. R.A., C.V.O.. 

LaTI MlLITAIlT ATTAGU TO Hit MaJIITY'i EmbAIIY at BlMIll. 



WITH MAPS AND ILLUSTRATIONS. 



LONDON : 
JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, W. 

1904. 



^T 



^ zo 



A 1 ^^11 

id. 1 



234696 



FiRiT Edition , . . Marth, 1904 
SicoND Edition • . . March, 1904 
Reprinted • . • • Turu, 1904 



»" 



• •• '• ;.• \. : «• 

• ••••,•.•,; ••••■ •-•••11 • 

•• .. /•.•.,••• 



PREFACE BY THE TRANSLATOR. 



The essential object of this work is the instruction of the 
German officer, and the criticisms which it contains point 
out, therefore, not only our alleged faults and errors, but 
show also what, in the opinion of the Great General Staff at 
Berlin, we ought to have done. This celebrated branch 
of the German army had access to various sources of 
information both during and after the war which were 
closed to us, and the work may best be left to speak for 
itself. 

Germany is not the only Great Power which has a fully 
equipped Military History section, but hers is, perhaps, 
better known by name in England thcin the corresponding 
branches in other armies, and it is readily admitted that 
in accomplishing any task which they have set themselves, 
the Germans are, at any rate, thorough and systematic. 

The principles underlying the German military system 
are very simple. In Germany a Minister of War — 
there is more than one — is the great administrative 
military official; he has nothing to do with the Chief of 
the Great General Staff — of which there is only one — who, 
when grand manoeuvres take place, or war is declared, is 
the great executive officer, with whose decisions the 
Minister of War has nothing to do ; neither of these two 
officers again have anything to do with the Chief of the 
Military Cabinet, whose department settles questions con- 
cerning commands and promotion. All three are of equal 
standing under the Sovereign; each has his own well- 



defined sphere for which he really is responsible, and 
there is, therefore, no clashing of duties. It is not sug- 
gested that one branch knows nothing about the others, 
but the system is clearly laid down with the result that 
continuity prevails in general miUtary policy and training. 

There have already been enough and more than enough 
books about the Boer War published in England — ^good» 
bad, and indifferent; but it is believed that not only 
experts, but also the general public will welcome this 
history, which by its conciseness, its strict impartiality, 
and its lucidity can hardly fail to interest and instruct all 
who have studied the subject of the War in South Africa. 

The German edition of this book is pubUshed in 
pamphlets, a method which is in very general use in 
Germany, but does not quite fit in with our practice. It 
is hoped, however, to issue later an English translation 
of other works on the same subject upon which the 
General Staff is now engaged 



W. IL H. Waters. 



February^ 1904. 



PREFACE. 



The works issued by the Military History section of the 
Great General Staff have dealt hitherto chiefly with events 
in which the German army took part, but the attempt will 
now be made to utilise the experience which some other 
Powers have gained in wars carried on beyond the con- 
fines of Europe. The General Staff, however, has no 
intention of giving a complete account of such campaigns ; 
this task must be reserved for the armies concerned at 
some later period, when all the ofiicial materials can be 
made use of. Certain phases of especial military interest 
will alone be treated in this work. 

Nevertheless every endeavour will be made to repre- 
sent as faithfully as possible, having regard to the informa- 
tion now available, the events which are describeH, and 
to contrast the conditions under which they occiured with 
those which would prevail in a European theatre of war. 
Now that Germany has also become a Colonial Power, it 
seems not unimportant to draw attention to non-European 
wars, in order to sift and adapt the experiences gained 
by other armies. The significance which pertains to the 
South African campaign, by reason Qf its having been 
the first in which the effect of small-calibre rifles with 
smokeless powder was observed on a large scale, is quite 
sufficient justification for placing it at the head of the 
list 

The General Staff expresses its thanks for the valuable 
assistance received from various combatants in the com- 
pilation of this account 



CONTENTS. 



^MOB 



(PART I.) 

COLENSO AND MAGERSFONTEIN. 
Craftbr Paoi 

I. Introductory Remarks i 

Mobilisation. 

II. The Theatre of War and the Boer Forces . . 5 

Climatic Influences — Roads and Railways — The Boers 
as Fighting Men— Conditions of Service — Laing*s Nek — 
Majuba Hill — State of Armament — Boer Armament. 

III. Tactics, Armament, and Equipment of the British 

ARMY • • • • . • • aZj 

Training of the British Army — Infantry Tactics — Mounted 
Troops and Artillery — Equipment. 

IV. The Commencement of Hostilities . . . .32 

Boer Plan of Campaign — Elandslaagte — Retreat of British 
—Boers Invest Ladysmith. 

V. Events in Natal up to December 5 ... 43 
Buller Goes to Natal — British and Boer Forces. 



VI. Events in Natal from December 5 until the Battle 

OF COLENSO 

British Reconnaissance — Buller's Plan — Orders for Attack. 



VII. The Battle of Colenso 

Botha's Orders^ Long's Guns — Buller and the Guns — 
Hlangwane Hill — British Retreat — British and Boer Losses 

VIII. Comments on the Battle of Colenso 

Buller's Dejection — Reconnaissance — Hildyard's Tactics 

IX. Operations of Lord Methuen up to December 8 

Want of Maps — Belmont— Modder River Action — Paucity 



48 



57 



71 



78 



of Mounted Troops. 

X. Operations of the Boers up to December 10 . 86 

Steyn's Energy— Magersfontein Position — Methuen's 
Force — Boers Expect Attack — British Plan of Attack. 



CONTENTS. VII 

CBArrim Paoi 

XL The Battle of Magersfontein .... 97 

Highlanders* Advance — The Heroic Wauchope — Isolated 
British Attacks— Highland Attack Stopped — Advance of 
the Gordons — Highlanders Disorganised. 

Xn. Comments on the Battle of Magersfontein . .111 

Faulty Reconnaissance — Bad Arrangements — British 
Tactics — Colvile's Lack of Energy — Britbh and Boers 
Compared. 



APPENDICES. 

No. L Order of Battle of the First Army Corps . 232 
No. II. Order of Battle of the Natal Field Force on 

December 15 236 

No. III. Order of Battle of Lord Methuen's Division 

ON December ii 238 

No. IV. British Strength and Losses at Magersfontein 240 



(PART n.) 

OPERATIONS IN THE WESTERN THEATRE OF WAR FROM 
THE ASSUMPTION OF COMMAND BY LORD ROBERTS 
UNTIL THE SURRENDER OF CRONJE. 

XIII. The Advance on Modder River, and the Relief 

OF Kimberley . . . * . . .125 

Roberts and Kitchener — Colonial Troops — Choice of 
Route — Physical Features — British Concentrate — Boer 
Army — British Movements — Advance of the British — No 
Reconnaissance — Boers Bar the Way — Effect of British 
Guns — Effects of the Relief — British Supplies Captured 
— Army Placed on Half Rations. 

XIV. The Pursuit of Cronje 154 

Retreat of the Boers — Action at Drieput — Cavalry at 
Dronfield — Cronje's Night March — French Stops Cronje 
— Value of Cavalry — Arrival of Sixth Division — Supply 
and Transport. 

XV. Comments on the Relief of Kimberley and the 

Pursuit of Cronje 171 

Strategy and Tactics — Night Marches — Reconnaissance. 



• •• 



VUI CONTENTS. 

CBAmm Paoi 

XVI. Lord Kitchener DEaDES on an Iicmediate Attack 179 
Kitchener's Tactics. 

XVII. The Sixth Division and the Highland Brigade 

ON THE South Bank 182 

Sixth Division — Highland Brigade — Arrival of de Wet. 

XVIII. The Nineteenth Brigade on the North Bank 189 

Kitchener and Colvile. 

XIX. The Mounted Infantry, and the Eighteenth 
Brigade in the River Valley to the East of 

the Laager 193 

Welch and Essex Regiments — Indecisive Battles. 

XX. The Surrender of Cronje 19S 



Artillery Bombardment — Boer Laager on Fire — Infantry 
Trench Work — Kitchener's Kopje — Soers decide to Sur- 
render — The Boers Surrender — Malicious Foreign Press — 
Results of the Surrender. 

XXI. Comments on the Fighting at Paardeberg, and 

General Remarks 215 

Mistakes of Lord Kitchener — Faulty Tactics^ — Infantry 
Formations — Infantry in Attack — EflFect of Musketry Fire — 
Effect of Lyddite — Personal Friction. 



APPENDICES. 
No. I. Distribution and Strength of the British 

Forces in South Africa on January 31, 1900 242 

No. II. Instructions issued by Lord Roberts and 

Lieut. -General Kelly-Kenny . . . 244 

No. III. Strength of the Force for the Reuef of 

KiMBERLEY , . 25I 

No. IV. Order of Battle of the Troops Intended for 

THE Relief of Kimberley . . . -253 

No. V. Commander-in-Chief's Orders . . . .261 

No. VI. Infantry Losses at Paardeberg on February i 8, 

1900 , 262 

No. VII. Negotiations beti^een the British Head- 
quarters AND General Cronje . • • 263 

No. VIII. Transport and Supply 265 

Na IX. Strength on Mobilisation .... 269 



IX 



LIST OF MAPS AND ILLUSTRATIONS. 



Map I. Transvaal, Orange Free State, and British 

South Africa at the end. 

„ 2. Distribution of the British Forces in 

January, 1900 iofacep. 22 

,, 3. Action at Elandslaagte „ 38 

„ 4. Country round Colenso „ 46 

„ 5. View of the Boer Position at Colenso . „ 70 

„ 6. Battle of Colenso „ 76 

„ 7. Battle of Magersfontein „ 122 

„ 8. Reuef of Kimberley and Battle of 

Paardeberg „ 214 

„ 8a. Battle of Paardeberg „ 224 



IllustraHoH. — The Heights of Magersfontein ... to face p. 88 
IlltistraUoH, — Boer Shelter Trench at Magersfontein „ 92 



CHAPTER I. 

Introductory Remarks. 

The war in South Africa, which ended in May, 1902, 
with the annihilation of the independence of the Boer Re- 
publics, was the termination of the struggle, left undecided 
in 1 88 1, between Great Britain and the descendants of 
the original Dutch settlers, who had taken possession of 
the Cape in the year 1652. During the naval wars at the 
commencement of the Nineteenth Century England twice 
seized the Dutch possessions in South Africa, and they 
were finally ceded to her on the conclusion of peace in 
18 1 5. Reasons similar to those which had induced the 
Boers, as far back as 1835, to migrate northwards led 
to the war of 1899. The refusal of the Boer Govern- 
ment to facilitate the acquisition of Burghership by the 
English dwellers in the Transvaal, and alleged disad- 
vantages in political and commercial questions, gave 
England a pretext for diplomatic negotiations, which she 
endeavoured to emphasize by strengthening her garrisons 
in Cape Colony and in Natal. 

At the commencement of the year 1899 the British 
troops in South Africa consisted of six and a-half bat- 
talions of infantry, two cavalry regiments, four field 
batteries, one moimtain battery, and the volimteer 
levies of the South African Colonies. They were rein- 
forced in August by two battalions, four field batteries, 
and three companies of Engineers, and on September 8th 

B 



2 INTRODUCTORY REMARKS. [Ch. I. 

the despatch of 10,000 more troops from England, Malta, 
Egypt and India was ordered. The embarkation of the 
troops from India was effected with striking rapidity, 
and the Government there had been informed that the 
despatch of another infantry brigade and one of cavalry 
would probably soon be necessary. The British troops 
in India are on a war footing, have no untrained men in 
the ranks, and require, therefore, no reservists on mobili- 
sation. The great advantage of this system was apparent, 
not only when preparing the units for embarkation, but 
especially later when operations had commenced. Forty- 
eight hours after the receipt of the order the troops* 
were able to reach their ports of embarkatioa The first 
transport sailed from Bombay on September 17th, and 
by the 25 th, sixteen out of nineteen were on the voyage. 
Lieut-General Sir George White, formerly Commander- 
in-Chief in India, was appointed to the command of the 
forces in Natal; he was known as an energetic and 
cautious leader, and had, a few years previously, success- 
fully carried out military operations on the north-west 
frontier of India. 

In order still further to strengthen the field army, the 
volimteer forces in South Africa were increased, and a 
body of mounted infantry, about 1,000 strong, called 
the " Imperial Light Horse," was formed from Uitlanders 
and residents in the Transvaal friendly to England, while 
the railway companies prepared armoured trains for the 
protection of the lines. 

But, as was the case in former struggles, the available 
English forces in South Africa were, up to the middle 
of October, quite insufficient to support, by force of 
arms, the demands which English diplomacy might make. 
They scarcely sufficed to protect certain points from 

* 4 battalions, 3 cavalrj regiments, 3 field batteries, an ammunition paik| 
an ammunition column, and a field hospital. 



I899-] MOBILISATION. J 

immediate attack. Viscount Wolseley, the Commander- 
in-Chief of the British army, had already, in the summer 
of 1890, advised the mobilisation of an army corps in 
order to enforce the British proposals more enei^etically, 
but his plan was rejected, the Government only sanction- 
ing preparatory measures. The reinforcement of the 
South African garrison did not have the effect hoped lot. 
On the contrary it strengthened the spirit of opposition 
of both the South African Repubhcs, The conviction 
that the struggle between the Dutch and the English 
would, sooner or later, have to be fought out, and that 
the present moment was, perhaps, not an unfavourable 
one, was preponderant in the two States, while England's 
delay in adopting more serious measures confirmed the 
Boers in their view. 

In the &rst days of October trustworthy information 
reached London which scarcely left a doubt that the 
Boers bad decided on war, and even meditated an attack 
upon the weak British forces in South Africa. Several 
days, however, passed in deliberations, until at last, on 
October ^th, the mobilisation of the first army corps and 
of a cavalry division was decided upon. A squadron 
was simultaneously formed, which was to remain in the 
Channel in readiness for eventualities, and the Chaimet 
Squadron proper received orders to proceed to Gib- 
raltar. During the voyage it afforded protection to the 
numerous transports which were leaving England by its 
formation between them and the French coast, the ships 
being prepared for action and stationed at intervals of five 
nautical miles. In the neighbourhood of Malta was the 
ICeditdranean Squadron, and, at the Cape, the squadron 
of that name. There was, besides, a large number of 
, cruisers ^tSflfett^^^^ route of the transports ] they 
: coaling stations, 
me time, 




2 INTRODUCTORY REMARKS. [Ch. I. 

the despatch of 10,000 more troops from England, Malta, 
Egypt and India was ordered. The embarkation of the 
troops from India was effected with striking rapidity, 
and the Government there had been informed that the 
despatch of another infantry brigade and one of cavalry 
would probably soon be necessary. The British troops 
in India are on a war footing, have no untrained men in 
the ranks, and require, therefore, no reservists on mobili- 
sation. The great advantage of this system was apparent, 
not only when preparing the imits for embarkation, but 
especially later when operations had commenced. Forty- 
eight hours after the receipt of the order the troops* 
were able to reach their ports of embarkatioa The first 
transport sailed from Bombay on September 17th, and 
by the 25 th, sixteen out of nineteen were on the voyage. 
Lieut-General Sir George White, formerly Commander- 
in-Chief in India, was appointed to the command of the 
forces in Natal; he was known as an energetic and 
cautious leader, and had, a few years previously, success- 
fully carried out military operations on the north-west 
frontier of India. 

In order still further to strengthen the field army, the 
volimteer forces in South Africa were increased, and a 
body of mounted infantry, about 1,000 strong, called 
the '* Imperial Light Horse," was formed from Uitlanders 
and residents in the Transvaal friendly to England, while 
the railway companies prepared armoured trains for the 
protection of the lines. 

But, as was the case in former struggles, the available 
English forces in South Africa were, up to the middle 
of October, quite insufficient to support, by force of 
arms, the demands which English diplomacy might make. 
They scarcely sufficed to protect certain points from 

* 4 battalions, 3 cavalrj regiments, 3 field batteries, an ammunition park, 
an ammunition column, and a field hospital. 



1899.] MOBILISATION. 3 

immediate attack. Viscoimt Wolseley, the Commander- 
in-Chief of the British army, had already, in the summer 
of 1899, advised the mobilisation of an army corps in 
order to enforce the British proposals more energetically, 
but his plan was rejected, the Government only sanction- 
ing preparatory measures. The reinforcement of the 
South African garrison did not have the effect hoped fo^. 
On the contrary it strengthened the spirit of opposition 
of both the South African Republics. The conviction 
that the struggle between the Dutch and the English 
would, sooner or later, have to be fought out, and that 
the present moment was, perhaps, not an unfavourable 
one, was preponderant in the two States, while England's 
delay in adopting more serious measures confirmed the 
Boers in their view. 

In the first days of October trustworthy information 
reached London which scarcely left a doubt that the 
Boers had decided on war, and even meditated an attack 
upon the weak British forces in South Africa. Several 
Says, however, passed in deliberations, imtil at last, on 
October 7th, the mobilisation of the first army corps and 
of a cavalry division was decided upon. A squadron 
was simultaneously formed, which was to remain in the 
Channel in readiness for eventualities, and the Channel 
Squadron proper received orders to proceed to Gib- 
raltar. During the voyage it afforded protection to the 
ntmierous transports which were leaving England by its 
formation between them and the French coast, the ships 
being prepared for action and stationed at intervals of five 
nautical miles. In the neighbourhood of Malta was the 
Mediterranean Squadron, and, at the Cape, the squadron 
of that name. There was, besides, a large number of 
cruisers along the entire route of the transports; they 
were partly cruising and partly at the coaling stations, 
in order to protect the transports while, at the same time, 

B 2 



2 INTRODUCTORY REMARKS. [Ch. I. 

the despatch of 10,000 more troops from England, Malta, 
Egypt and India was ordered The embarkation of the 
troops from India was effected with striking rapidity, 
and the Government there had been informed that the 
despatch of another infantry brigade and one of cavalry 
would probably soon be necessary. The British troops 
in India are on a war footing, have no untrained men in 
the ranks, and require, therefore, no reservists on mobili- 
satioa The great advantage of this system was apparent, 
not only when preparing the units for embarkation, but 
especially later when operations had commenced. Forty- 
eight hours after the receipt of the order the troops* 
were able to reach their ports of embarkatioa The first 
transport sailed from Bombay on September 17th, and 
by the 25th, sixteen out of nineteen were on the voyage. 
Lieut-General Sir George White, formerly Commander- 
in-Chief in India, was appointed to the command of the 
forces in Natal; he was known as an energetic and 
cautious leader, and had, a few years previously, success- 
fully carried out military operations on the north-west 
frontier of India. 

In order still further to strengthen the field army, the 
volunteer forces in South Africa were increased, and a 
body of mounted infantry, about 1,000 strong, called 
the " Imperial Light Horse," was formed from Uitlanders 
and residents in the Transvaal friendly to England, while 
the railway companies prepared armoured trains for the 
protection of the lines. 

But, as was the case in former struggles, the available 
English forces in South Africa were, up to the middle 
of October, quite insufficient to support, by force of 
arms, the demands which English diplomacy might make. 
They scarcely sufficed to protect certain points from 

* 4 battalions, 3 cavalrj regiments, 3 field batteries, an ammunition park, 
an ammunition column, and a field hospital. 



1899.] MOBILISATION. 3 

immediate attack. Viscoimt Wolseley, the Commander- 
in-Chief of the British army, had already, in the summer 
of 1899, advised the mobilisation of an army corps in 
order to enforce the British proposals more energetically, 
but his plan was rejected, the Government only sanction- 
ing preparatory measures. The reinforcement of the 
South African garrison did not have the effect hoped fo^. 
On the contrary it strengthened the spirit of opposition 
of both the South African RepubUcs. The conviction 
that the struggle between the Dutch and the English 
would, sooner or later, have to be fought out, and that 
the present moment was, perhaps, not an unfavourable 
one, was preponderant in the two States, while England's 
delay in adopting more serious measures confirmed the 
Boers in their view. 

In the first days of October trustworthy information 
reached London which scarcely left a doubt that the 
Boers had decided on war, and even meditated an attack 
upon the weak British forces in South Africa. Several 
clays, however, passed in deliberations, imtil at last, on 
October 7th, the mobilisation of the first army corps and 
of a cavalry division was decided upon. A squadron 
was simultaneously formed, which was to remain in the 
Channel in readiness for eventualities, and the Channel 
Squadron proper received orders to proceed to Gib- 
raltar. During the voyage it afforded protection to the 
ntmierous transports which were leaving England by its 
formation between them and the French coast, the ships 
being prepared for action and stationed at intervals of five 
nautical miles. In the neighbourhood of Malta was the 
Mediterranean Squadron, and, at the Cape, the squadron 
of that name. There was, besides, a large number of 
cruisers along the entire route of the transports; they 
were partly cruising and partly at the coaling stations, 
in order to protect the transports while, at the same time, 

B 2 



2 INTRODUCTORY REMARKS. [Ch. I. 

the despatch of 10,000 more troops from England, Malta, 
Egypt and India was ordered. The embarkation of the 
troops from India was effected with striking rapidity, 
and the Government there had been informed that the 
despatch of another infantry brigade and one of cavalry 
would probably soon be necessary. The British troops 
in India are on a war footing, have no untrained men in 
the ranks, and require, therefore, no reservists on mobili- 
satioa The great advantage of this system was apparent, 
not only when preparing the imits for embarkation, but 
especially later when operations had commenced. Forty- 
eight hours after the receipt of the order the troops* 
were able to reach their ports of embarkatioa The first 
transport sailed from Bombay on September 17th, and 
by the 2Sth, sixteen out of nineteen were on the voyage. 
Lieut-General Sir George White, formerly Commander- 
in-Chief in India, was appointed to the command of the 
forces in Natal; he was known as an energetic and 
cautious leader, and had, a few years previously, success- 
fully carried out military operations on the north-west 
frontier of India. 

In order still further to strengthen the field army, the 
volimteer forces in South Africa were increased, and a 
body of mounted infantry, about 1,000 strong, called 
the " Imperial Light Horse," was formed from Uitlanders 
and residents in the Transvaal friendly to England, while 
the railway companies prepared armoured trains for the 
protection of the lines. 

But, as was the case in former struggles, the available 
English forces in South Africa were, up to the middle 
of October, quite insufficient to support, by force of 
arms, the demands which English diplomacy might make. 
They scarcely sufficed to protect certain points from 

* 4 battalions, 3 cavalry regiments, 3 field batteries, an ammunition park, 
an ammunition column, and a field hospital. 



1899.3 MOBILISATION. 3 

immediate attack. Viscoimt Wolseley, the Commander- 
in-Chief of the British army, had already, in the summer 
of 1899, advised the mobilisation of an army corps in 
order to enforce the British proposals more energetically, 
but his plan was rejected, the Government only sanction- 
ing preparatory measures. The reinforcement of the 
South African garrison did not have the effect hoped fo^. 
On the contrary it strengthened the spirit of opposition 
of both the South African Republics. The conviction 
that the struggle between the Dutch and the English 
would, sooner or later, have to be fought out, and that 
the present moment was, perhaps, not an unfavourable 
one, was preponderant in the two States, while England's 
delay in adopting more serious measures confirmed the 
Boers in their view. 

In the first days of October trustworthy information 
reached London which scarcely left a doubt that the 
Boers had decided on war, and even meditated an attack 
upon the weak British forces in South Africa. Several 
Hays, however, passed in deliberations, imtil at last, on 
October 7th, the mobilisation of the first army corps and 
of a cavalry division was decided upon. A squadron 
was simultaneously formed, which was to remain in the 
Channel in readiness for eventualities, and the Channel 
Squadron proper received orders to proceed to Gib- 
raltar. During the voyage it afforded protection to the 
numerous transports which were leaving England by its 
formation between them and the French coast, the ships 
being prepared for action and stationed at intervals of five 
nautical miles. In the neighbourhood of Malta was the 
Mediterranean Squadron, and, at the Cape, the squadron 
of that name. There was, besides, a large number of 
cruisers along the entire route of the transports; they 
were partly cruising and partly at the coaling stations, 
in order to protect the transports while, at the same time, 

B 2 



2 INTRODUCTORY REMARKS. [Ca. I. 

the despatch of 10,000 more troops from England, Malta, 
Egypt and India was ordered The embarkation of the 
troops from India was efEected with striking rapidity, 
and the Government there had been informed that the 
despatch of another infantry brigade and one of cavalry 
would probably soon be necessary. The British troops 
in India are on a war footing, have no untrained men in 
the ranks, and require, therefore, no reservists on mobili- 
sation. The great advantage of this system was apparent, 
not only when preparing the units for embarkation, but 
especially later when operations had commenced. Forty- 
eight hours after the receipt of the order the troops* 
were able to reach their ports of embarkation. The first 
transport sailed from Bombay on September 17th, and 
by the 25th, sixteen out of nineteen were on the voyage. 
Lieut-General Sir Geo^e White, formerly Commander- 
in-Chief in India, was appointed to the command of the 
forces in Natal ; he was known as an energetic and 
cautious leader, and had, a few years previously, success- 
fully carried out military operations on the north-west 
frontier of India. 

In order still further to strengthen the field army, the 
volunteer forces in South Africa were increased, and a 
body of mounted infantry, about i.ooo strong, called 
the " Imperial Light Horse," was formed from Uitlanders 
and residents in the Transvaal friendly to England, while 
the railway companies prepared armoured trains for the 
.protection of the lines. 

But, as was the case in former struggles, the available 

English forces in South Africa were, up to the middle 

oE October, quite insufficient to support, by force of 

anus, the demands which English diplomacy might make. 

' Bcarceiy sufficed to protect certain points from 

puk, 




1899.3 MOBILISATION. 3 

ixmnediate attack. Viscount Wolseley, the Commander- 
in-Chief of the British army, had already, in the summer 
of 1899, advised the mobilisation of an army corps in 
order to enforce the British proposals more energetically, 
but his plan was rejected, the Government only sanction- 
ing preparatory measures. The reinforcement of the 
South African garrison did not have the effect hoped fo^. 
On the contrary it strengthened the spirit of opposition 
of both the South African RepubUcs. The conviction 
that the struggle between the Dutch and the English 
would, sooner or later, have to be fought out, and that 
the present moment was, perhaps, not an imfavourable 
one, was preponderant in the two States, while England's 
delay in adopting more serious measures confirmed the 
Boers in their view. 

In the first days of October trustworthy information 
reached London which scarcely left a doubt that the 
Boers had decided on war, and even meditated an attack 
upon the weak British forces in South Africa. Several 
Hays, however, passed in deliberations, tmtil at last, on 
October 7th, the mobilisation of the first army corps and 
of a cavalry division was decided upon. A squadron 
was simultaneously formed, which was to remain in the 
Channel in readiness for eventualities, and the Channel 
Squadron proper received orders to proceed to Gib- 
raltar. During the voyage it afforded protection to the 
numerous transports which were leaving England by its 
formation between them and the French coast, the ships 
being prepared for action and stationed at intervals of five 
nautical miles. In the neighbourhood of Malta was the 
Mediterranean Squadron, and, at the Cape, the squadron 
of that name. There was, besides, a large number of 
cruisers along the entire route of the transports; they 
were partly cruising and partly at the coaling stations, 
in order to protect the transports while, at the same time, 

B 2 



4 INTRODUCTORY REMARKS. [Ch. I. 

preventing the importation of munitions of war for the 
Boers. 

The Transvaal replied to the mobilisation of the first 
army corps by an ultimatum addressed to Great Britain. 
By the nth of October the latter was to withdraw her 
troops from the frontiers, and not to land in South Africa 
those which were then at sea. England could not accept 
such conditions; war thus became inevitable, and arms 
alone could decide the issue. 



I899-] 



CHAPTER 11. 

The Theatre of War and the Boer Forces. 

In order to understand the events of the war in South 
Africa it is necessary to form an idea of the country, 
and to appreciate to what an extraordinary extent it 
differs from Europe.* The area of the Transvaal is nearly 
the same as that of Southern and Central Germany, to- 
gether with Alsace-Lorraine, while that of the Orange 
Free State was about equal to that of North Germany, 
exclusive of the provinces of Prussia and Silesia. The 
variety of scenery that we find in Europe, its rapid 
change of character, the charming landscapes, the high 
state of cultivation, all this is wanting in South Africa, 
where a curiously rigid uniformity prevails. All natural 
features are on a large scale ; the endless plains, as well 
as the bare, rugged moimtains, while the gloomy gran- 
deur and the death-like silence of the wilderness 
overpower the mind of the spectator. Scattered settle- 
ments and cultivated oases are to be foimd there, but 
only when there is a plentiful supply of water. South 
Africa is an unfruitful land, and scarcity of water is one 
of its characteristics. The population is, therefore, 
sparse, and widely scattered Whereas in Germany there 
are 270 persons to a square mile, there are in Natal, 
the most fertile region in South Africa, only 28, in the 
Transvaal only 7*75, in Cape Colony and the Orange 
Free State only 5 souls in the same area. 

* Written in 1899 by Major Count Gbtzen (now Governor of German 
East Africa) after travelling in the country. 



6 THEATRE OF WAR. [Ch.II. 

The great sameness of the scenery and the want of 
variety in the landscape render it extremely difficult for a 
European to ascertain his position. His eye is accustomed 
to the numerous gradations of his native scenery, and it 
is difficult for him to recognise distinctive features in the 
African forms. Every portion of the great plains seems 
to resemble the others; one ridge appears to his eye to 
be like the next; the danger of going astray is very 
great, and when leaving the beaten tracks native guides 
are necessary. 

The climate is also something quite xmusual for the 
European. Winter and Summer are reversed as com- 
pared with their order in Europe. The hot weather 
lasts from October to March, and the rainy season falls 
in it, while with April begins cold and mostly dry weather. 
The variations in temperature are very great; whereas 
at night the thermometer frequently falls to 23 degrees 
Fahrenheit, the heat by day becomes gradually so over- 
powering as to preclude great exertions. The atmosphere 
is then extraordinarily pure and clear, and at night the 
stars and the moon illuminate the coimtry to such an 
extent that the way can be found without difficulty. 
Night marches, therefore, are rather the rule than the 
exception, because they fatigue the troops far less than 
do marches by day. Under the influence of the long 
dry season Nature dies off. Most of the trees become 
leafless, the grass gets yellow, and its power of nourish- 
ment decreases to such a degree that horses lose much of 
their capacity for work, as soon as they are put on grass 
forage 

The change of seasons is preceded by violent storms, 
which gather up the loose earth and then veil an entire 
district in dust. The approach of the rainy season is 
heralded by the sky being clouded over; the tempera- 
ture becomes warmer, often oppressive, and, towards 



1899] CLIMATIC INFLUENCES. 7 

evening, there are heavy rain storms which completely 
change the landscape; river beds, empty of all but sand 
in the dry season, are filled with water, and the tiny 
mountain streams are often swollen, in the course of a 
single night, into mighty torrents. The stiff clay soil 
becomes a swamp, and the dried-up country is covered 
with green grass which, under the influence of rain and 
heat, grows extremely rapidly and affords nourishment 
in abundance to riding and draught animals. 

In the dry season the length of marches must be 
regulated by the position of the sparsely-situated water- 
ing places, and the problem then becomes a very difficult 
one. During the wet season, on the other hand. Nature 
raises up other difficulties; the rain frequently renders 
night marches impossible, while by day the heat is often 
insupportable ; in Natal, for instance, the thermometer 
rises to over 102 degrees Fahrenheit Troops must, there- 
fore, utilise the early morning and evening hours for 
marching, and they must, also, always have their tents 
with them, otherwise disease of every description is sure 
soon to reduce their ranks ; consequently the baggage train 
grows enormously, for it is only the mounted soldier who 
can carry his equipment and supplies for several days 
with him. Climatic influences so unlike those to which 
he is accustomed often involve the European in diffi- 
culties which, to him, appear insuperable, but which the 
Afrikander thinks nothing of. The former requires 
months before his body is so trained that he can endure 
the exertions of marching, and a residence of several years 
is necessary in order to be able to understand and to find 
one's way about in this strange Nature. Taking these 
various influences into consideration, it is intelligible that 
troops, newly arrived in Africa, retain only a fraction of 
the efficiency that they would possess in Europe. Herein 
lies one explanation of the fact that the Boer Militia 



8 THEATRE OF WAR. 



[Ch. IL 



was for so long a period able to oppose successfully the 
trained English troops. 

In the rainy season there is another cause which 
seriously hinders the mobility of an army, namely, that 
by eating fresh grass, horses easily contract a disease 
which may have very injurious results and which, in some 
years, carries off more than half their number; in bad 
cases it soon causes death, because the lungs are destroyed* 
Whereas the Boers possess many horses which have re- 
covered and are known as "salted,** those newly im- 
ported from other countries fall victims much more 
rapidly than do the home-bred ones. Mules are less 
liable to be attacked. 

In character South Africa is a table-land, and its con- 
figuration has been fairly compared with that of a plate 
turned upside down ; the narrow, gently rising coast 
plains are bounded by broken ledges and rugged moun- 
tain chains, whence the country, towards the interior, 
subsides into far-stretching plateaus. Three terraces may 
be distinguished from the south towards the north-east: 
the Karroo, the Orange Free State, and the Central 
Transvaal, which is the highest The grandeur of Nature 
in South Africa is especially noticeable in Basutoland, a 
circumstance which, together with the almost complete 
independence of the dreaded Basuto Kaffirs, ensured the 
neutrality of that country being respected during the 
war. 

The Orange River rises in Basutoland and divides the 
Karroo from the Orange Free State plateau, the Vaal 
River, which is the northern boundary of the latter, be* 
longing to its system. In the Southern Transvaal the 
rich Witwatersrand forms the water-shed between the 
Vaal and the Limpopo River, which is the northern 
frontier of the Transvaal. The spurs of the Drakensberg 
give the eastern portion of the Transvaal a hilly character. 



1899] ROADS AND RAILWAYS. 9 

and the Buffalo River, which forms part of the boundary 
between the Transvaal and the northern portion of Natal» 
rises in that mountain chain and flows east of Ladysmith 
into the Tugela, which also has its source in these 
moimtains. 

Roads, in the European sense, scarcely exist in South 
Africa; they are, as a rule, merely tracks formed by 
frequent traffic. In the dry season they are generally 
quite serviceable, but during the rains they often so com- 
pletely lose their character as means of communication 
that heavy waggons frequently stick fast for days together. 

The railways are all single lines with numerous sidings, 
and their gauge is only 3 feet 6 inches ; hence it is difficult 
to forward by them large nimibers of troops and the 
supplies necessary for an army. The railway from Cape 
Town runs with many windings through the mountains 
and enters the lower Karroo, a vast treeless tract, where 
water is scarce, and cultivation and population are alike 
scanty. North of Beaufort West the line traverses a 
second mountain chain and reaches the upper Karroo, 
still more unfruitful than the lower one, and where there 
are neither trees nor grass. The reddish-brown clay soil 
is covered with low bush about 18 inches high which 
affords, however, good pasture for sheep. In the centre 
of the upper Karroo is the important railway junction 
of De Aar, whence a branch nms to the Port Elizabeth- 
Bloemfontein line. The Karroo ends in the neighbour- 
hood of the Orange River, which the line crosses east 
of Hopetown by an iron bridge 420 yards long. North 
of the river the country is, like the Karroo, an immense 
plain, but whereas the Karroo is traversed by rugged 
mountain chains, there are in the north, as a rule, only 
low ranges of hills which rise abruptly, and formed points 
cCappui for the Boer army, affording it a splendid 
field of fire across the flat ground in front From Cape 





8 THEATRE OF WAR. 



[Ch. IL 



was for so long a period able to oppose successfully the 
trained English troops. 

In the rainy season there is another cause which 
seriously hinders the mobility of an army, namely, that 
by eating fresh grass, horses easily contract a disease 
which may have very injurious results and which, in some 
years, carries off more than half their number; in bad 
cases it soon causes death, because the lungs are destroyed^ 
Whereas the Boers possess many horses which have re- 
covered and are known as " salted," those newly im- 
ported from other countries fall victims much more 
rapidly than do the home-bred ones. Mules are less 
liable to be attacked. 

In character South Africa is a table-land, and its con- 
figuration has been fairly compared with that of a plate 
turned upsidie down ; the narrow, gently rising coast 
plains are bounded by broken ledges and rugged moun- 
tain chains, whence the country, towards the interior, 
subsides into far-stretching plateaus. Three terraces may 
be distinguished from the south towards the north-east : 
the Karroo, the Orange Free State, and the Central 
Transvaal, which is the highest. The grandeur of Nature 
in South Africa is especially noticeable in Basutoland, a 
circumstance which, together with the almost complete 
independence of the dreaded Basuto Kaffirs, ensured the 
neutrality of that country being respected during the 
war. 

The Orange River rises in Basutoland and divides the 
Karroo from the Orange Free State plateau, the Vaal 
River, which is the northern boundary of the latter, be* 
longing to its system. In the Southern Transvaal the 
rich Witwatersrand forms the water-shed between the 
Vaal and the Limpopo River, which is the northern 
frontier of the Transvaal. The spurs of the Drakensberg 
give the eastern portion of the Transvaal a hilly character^ 



1899] ROADS AND RAILWAYS. 9 

and the Buffalo River, which forms part of the boundary 
between the Transvaal and the northern portion of Natal, 
rises in that mountain chain and flows east of Ladysmith 
into the Tugela, which also has its source in these 
moimtains. 

Roads, in the European sense, scarcely exist in South 
Africa; they are, as a rule, merely tracks formed by 
frequent traffic. In the dry season they are generally 
quite serviceable, but during the rains they often so com- 
pletely lose their character as means of communication 
that heavy waggons frequently stick fast for days together. 

The railways are all single lines with numerous sidings, 
and their gauge is only 3 feet 6 inches ; hence it is difficult 
to forward by them large nimibers of troops and the 
supplies necessary for an army. The railway from Cape 
Town runs with many windings through the mountains 
and enters the lower Karroo, a vast treeless tract, where 
water is scarce, and cultivation and population are alike 
scanty. North of Beaufort West the line traverses a 
second mountain chain and reaches the upper Karroo, 
still more imfruitful than the lower one, and where there 
are neither trees nor grass. The reddish-brown clay soil 
is covered with low bush about 18 inches high which 
affords, however, good pasture for sheep. In the centre 
of the upper Karroo is the important railway junction 
of De Aar, whence a branch nms to the Port Elizabeth- 
Bloemfontein line. The Karroo ends in the neighbour- 
hood of the Orange River, which the line crosses east 
of Hopetown by an iron bridge 420 yards long. North 
of the river the country is, like the Karroo, an immense 
plain, but whereas the Karroo is traversed by rugged 
moimtain chains, there are in the north, as a rule, only 
low ranges of hills which rise abruptly, and formed points 
(Tappui for the Boer army, affording it a splendid 
field of fire across the flat ground in front From Cape 



8 THEATRE OF WAR. [Ch. IL 

was for so long a period able to oppose successfully the 
trained English troops. 

In the rainy season there is another cause which 
seriously hinders the mobility of an army, namely, that 
by eating fresh grass, horses easily contract a disease 
which may have very injurious results and which, in some 
years, carries off more than half their number; in bad 
cases it soon causes death, because the lungs are destroyed^ 
Whereas the Boers possess many horses which have re- 
covered and are known as " salted," those newly im- 
ported from other countries fall victims much more 
rapidly than do the home-bred ones. Mules are less 
liable to be attacked. 

In character South Africa is a table-land, and its con- 
figuration has been fairly compared with that of a plate 
turned upsidie down ; the narrow, gently rising coast 
plains are bounded by broken ledges and rugged moun- 
tain chains, whence the country, towards the interior, 
subsides into far-stretching plateaus. Three terraces may 
be distinguished from the south towards the north-east t 
the Karroo, the Orange Free State, and the Central 
Transvaal, which is the highest. The grandeur of Nature 
in South Africa is especially noticeable in Basutoland, a 
circumstance which, together with the almost complete 
independence of the dreaded Basuto Kaffirs, ensured the 
neutrality of that country being respected during the 
war. 

The Orange River rises in Basutoland and divides the 
Karroo from the Orange Free State plateau, the Vaal 
River, which is the northern boundary of the latter, be* 
longing to its system. In the Southern Transvaal the 
rich Witwatersrand forms the water-shed between the 
Vaal and the Limpopo River, which is the northern 
frontier of the Transvaal. The spurs of the Drakensberg 
give the eastern portion of the Transvaal a hilly character^ 



1899] ROADS AND RAILWAYS. 9 

and the Buffalo River, which forms part of the boundary 
between the Transvaal and the northern portion of Natal, 
rises in that mountain chain and flows east of Ladysmith 
into the Tugela, which also has its source in these 
moimtains. 

Roads, in the European sense, scarcely exist in South 
Africa; they are, as a rule, merely tracks formed by 
frequent traffic. In the dry season they are generally 
quite serviceable, but during the rains they often so com- 
pletely lose their character as means of communication 
that heavy waggons frequently stick fast for days together. 

The railways are all single lines with numerous sidings, 
and their gauge is only 3 feet 6 inches ; hence it is difficult 
to forward by them large nimibers of troops and the 
supplies necessary for an army. The railway from Cape 
Town runs with many windings through the mountains 
and enters the lower Karroo, a vast treeless tract, where 
water is scarce, and cultivation and population are alike 
scanty. North of Beaufort West the line traverses a 
second mountain chain and reaches the upper Karroo, 
still more imfruitful than the lower one, and where there 
are neither trees nor grass. The reddish-brown clay soil 
is covered with low bush about 18 inches high which 
affords, however, good pasture for sheep. In the centre 
of the upper Karroo is the important railway junction 
of De Aar, whence a branch runs to the Port Elizabeth- 
Bloemfontein line. The Karroo ends in the neighbour- 
hood of the Orange River, which the line crosses east 
of Hopetown by an iron bridge 420 yards long. North 
of the river the cotmtry is, like the Karroo, an immense 
plain, but whereas the Karroo is traversed by rugged 
moimtain chains, there are in the north, as a rule, only 
low ranges of hills which rise abruptly, and formed points 
iTappui for the Boer army, affording it a splendid 
field of fire across the flat ground in front From Cape 



8 THEATRE OF WAR. [Ch. IL 

was for so long a period able to oppose successfully the 
trained English troops. 

In the rainy season there is another cause which 
seriously hinders the mobility of an army, namely, that 
by eating fresh grass, horses easily contract a disease 
which may have very injurious results and which, in some 
years, carries off more than half their number; in bad 
cases it soon causes death, because the lungs are destroyed^ 
Whereas the Boers possess many horses which have re- 
covered and are known as " salted," those newly im- 
ported from other countries fall victims much more 
rapidly than do the home-bred ones. Mules are less 
liable to be attacked. 

In character South Africa is a table-land, and its con- 
figuration has been fairly compared with that of a plate 
turned upside down ; the narrow, gently rising coast 
plains are bounded by broken ledges and rugged moun- 
tain chains, whence the country, towards the interior, 
subsides into far-stretching plateaus. Three terraces may 
be distinguished from the south towards the north-east: 
the Karroo, the Orange Free State, and the Central 
Transvaal, which is the highest. The grandeur of Nature 
in South Africa is especially noticeable in Basutoland, a 
circumstance which, together with the almost complete 
independence of the dreaded Basuto Kaffirs, ensured the 
neutrality of that country being respected during the 
war. 

The Orange River rises in Basutoland and divides the 
Karroo from the Orange Free State plateau, the Vaal 
River, which is the northern boundary of the latter, be- 
longing to its system. In the Southern Transvaal the 
rich Witwatersrand forms the water-shed between the 
Vaal and the Limpopo River, which is the northern 
frontier of the Transvaal. The spurs of the Drakensberg 
give the eastern portion of the Transvaal a hilly character^ 



1899] ROADS AND RAILWAYS. 9 

and the Buffalo River, which forms part of the boundary 
between the Transvaal and the northern portion of Natal, 
rises in that mountain chain and flows east of Ladysmith 
into the Tugela, which also has its source in these 
moimtains. 

Roads, in the European sense, scarcely exist in South 
Africa; they are, as a rule, merely tracks formed by 
frequent traffic. In the dry season they are generally 
quite serviceable, but during the rains they often so com- 
pletely lose their character as means of communication 
that heavy waggons frequently stick fast for days together. 

The railways are all single lines with numerous sidings, 
and their gauge is only 3 feet 6 inches ; hence it is difficult 
to forward by them large nimibers of troops and the 
supplies necessary for an army. The railway from Cape 
Town runs with many windings through the mountains 
and enters the lower Karroo, a vast treeless tract, where 
water is scarce, and cultivation and population are alike 
scanty. North of Beaufort West the line traverses a 
second mountain chain and reaches the upper Karroo, 
still more unfruitful than the lower one, and where there 
are neither trees nor grass. The reddish-brown clay soil 
is covered with low bush about 18 inches high which 
affords, however, good pasture for sheep. In the centre 
of the upper Karroo is the important railway junction 
of De Aar, whence a branch runs to the Port Elizabeth- 
Bloemfontein line. The Karroo ends in the neighbour- 
hood of the Orange River, which the line crosses east 
of Hopetown by an iron bridge 420 yards long. North 
of the river the country is, like the Karroo, an immense 
plain, but whereas the Karroo is traversed by rugged 
mountain chains, there are in the north, as a rule, only 
low ranges of hills which rise abruptly, and formed points 
iTappui for the Boer army, affording it a splendid 
field of fire across the flat ground in front From Cape 



10 THEATRE OF WAR. [Ch. II. 

Town to Kimberley is a distance of nearly 650 miles, 
about as far as that between Metz and Koenigsberg. 
Kimberley is a town of 28,000 inhabitants, and owes its 
origin to the discovery of diamonds. In the Seventies 
the population rose rapidly to 50,000, but then fell off, 
when the De Beers Company, in which Mr. Rhodes was 
the principal shareholder, imited nearly all the mines in 
its hands and made the production of diamonds its 
monopoly. The mining industry afforded much technical 
aid in the defence of the town. The line from Kim- 
berley follows the western frontier of the Transvaal vid 
Vryburg to Maf eking and Buluwayo. 

From Port Elizabeth two lines run through the hilly 
districts of the eastern part of Cape Colony and unite, 
east of Middelburg, at Rosmead Junction. One of them 
then continues northwards, while the other joins the 
railway from East London at Stormberg Jimction. The 
former joins the line from De Aar at Naauwpoort and 
runs vid Colesberg and across the Orange River at 
Norval's Pont to Bloemfontein, Johannesburg and Pre- 
toria. The country which it traverses from Colesberg 
to the north of the Orange River Colony is a vast, rolling 
and treeless plain crossed by low ranges of hills. 

The third line runs from East London vid Queenstown, 
northwards, through a hilly country, crosses the Orange 
River at Bethulie, and joins the railway to Bloemfontein 
at Springfontein. South of Stormberg is a branch to 
the Indwe coal mines, and another branch leads from 
Burghersdorp to Aliwal North, on the Orange River. 

The fourth line, for a distance of 10 miles from Dur- 
ban, traverses a tropical region and climbs, with numerous 
curves, the four terraces of which Natal consists. Pieter- 
maritzburg, the capital, is situated on the second terrace, 
70 miles from Durban. Between Pietermaritzburg and 
Ladysmith, a distance of 120 miles, the Tugela is crossed 




1899] THE BOERS AS FIGHTING MEN. II 

at Colenso, and at Ladysmith the line branches off towards 
Harrismith in the Orange River Colony, crossing the 
Drakensberg, which forms the frontier between it and 
Natal, at Van Reenen's Pass. The railway northwards from 
Ladysmith vid Glencoe pierces the mountains by means 
of a timnel at Laing's Nek, and is continued vid Stander- 
ton to Johannesburg. 

The most direct communication between Pretoria and 
the coast is the fifth, the so-called Netherlands line to 
Delagoa Bay. It is nearly 350 miles in length, and 
traverses the mountain chain at Komati Poort This 
line was of first-rate importance to the Boer States, be- 
cause it is the only one of the five which did not debouch 
into British territory. 

The British War Office could not have been in the 
dark respecting the peculiarities of the theatre of war 
and of its adversaries. Englishmen and Boers had fre- 
quently fought shoulder to shoulder against the native 
population, and had also been opposed to each other. 
Many Englishmen lived in the country; officers and 
engineers had, without being in any way impeded, 
travelled in both Republics and thereby had learned to 
know the country and its inhabitants. 

The picture here presented to their view was quite 
unlike that to be seen in Europe or in Central Asia. 
The whole male population of the Dutch Republics^ 
chiefly employed with their flocks, had been trained to 
the use of fire-arms from youth upwards. The pastoral 
life necessitated the dispersion of the few inhabitants 
over large areas, and the Boer had to depend on himself 
for the protection of his property. If he wished to com- 
municate with his neighbour, to assist him, or to make 
common cause with him, he could only do so by traversing 
long distances on horseback. Accustomed to exertion and 
to privation, the Boer possessed all the qualities which form 



12 THE BOER FORCES. [Ch. II. 

the foundation necessary for success in wair. When 
fighting against a numerous, brave but badly armed native 
population, and when hunting game, he had learned 
to study a coimtry, to avail himself of its cover, in order 
to get within effective range of his adversary, and only 
to fire when success was certain, but to fly quickly from 
danger. This system of fighting was not conducive to the 
carrying out of a costly attacic, and on religious grounds 
he held defence to be more justifiable ; he did not pursue, 
but contented himself with victory, nor did he lightly 
risk his life; he would quit a dangerous position without 
damage to his moral strength, and, instead of holding 
out to the last, he would occupy a new one. 

Thus was strengthened the self-confidence of the in- 
dividual rifleman who, in the field, remained always more 
a hunter than a soldier. The idea was that, in a fight, 
it was only necessary to defeat the adversary while secur- 
ing his own safety, and that a hand-to-hand struggle was 
at all costs to be avoided. The tactics of a number of 
Boers were based solely upon the employment of in- 
dividual and independent riflemen who, owing to the 
peculiarities of their race, were only unwilling subordi- 
nates, unless the objective were immediately plain to all 
eyes. Advancing at great intervals they endeavoured to 
encircle the enemy, without exposing themselves. In 
the defence, which was favoured by clear fields of fire 
and by the good cover afforded by the rolling ground 
and kopjes, the Boers had learned, in their struggles 
against the Zulus,* what a terrible weapon is a rifle with 
sufficient ammimition in the hands of an experienced shot 

The fundamental conditions favourable to the growth 
of a race accustomed to arms began, however, in the 

♦ On December i6th, 1838, 10,000 Zulus, under their chief, Dingan, 
attacked a laager defended by 500 Boers. They were repulsed with a loss 
of 3,000 men, while that of the Boers was only four men wounded. 



1899] CONDITIONS OF SERVICE. 1 3 

Seventies to change. Game had visibly diminished, and 
the independent Kaffir and Zulu tribes were submitting 
to British supremacy, had begxm to own flocks, or were 
in Boer service. In place of isolated farms and kraals 
there arose towns with a developing industry which, in 
conjunction with the newly discovered goldfields and 
diamond mines, attracted foreigners of the most doubt- 
ful character to the country. A strong central Govern- 
ment, apportioning burthens and rights impartially among 
the population, had not yet been able to be formed owing 
to the fact that the descendants of the original Dutch 
settlers climg to antiquated methods. Things were, 
therefore, in a transition stage little conducive to the 
maintenance of military qualities throughout all ranks of 
the people. English colonists, indeed, reported an evi- 
dent falling-off, especially in the use of fire-arms, and, if 
this were the case, then the weak points of the national 
character were bound to become more and more manifest 
The strength of the Boers lay in their individuality; it 
was better to cherish this in spite of all disadvantages 
than to copy an army organisation, which had been 
created under totally different conditions of life. Races 
naturally warlike, Uke the Turks, Cossacks, Sikhs, and 
Afghans, have lost much of their military value owing 
entirely to their having adopted European armaments, 
tactics, and formations. 

Thus was combined with liability to service the power 
of each of the 42 electoral districts to nominate its own 
chief of the district conmiando, which varied from 300 
to 3,000 efficient men. Under the Commandant, ap- 
pointed for five years, the Field Comets, named for three, 
controlled the administrative services in war and in peace. 
In war the Field Comet was leader, in peace a civil 
servant; he superintended the natives, kept the muster 
rolls, and arranged for mobilisation. This consisted merely 



14 THE BOER FORCES. [Ch. II. 

in calling out the men and ordering them to assemble 
with horse, arms, ammunition, and lo days' supplies at 
a specified spot By law the Boer was only liable to 
military service and not to imconditional obedience, so 
that an order issued under these peculiar circumstances 
was certain to lose all its effect soon, because a leader 
could only impose his views either by persuasion or argu- 
ment Discipline and subordination in the field depended, 
therefore, entirely upon the good-will of the individual, 
and distant raids, or attacks which would entail heavy 
losses, were thus rendered impossible. No leader had 
the actual power to retain against his wish a man tired 
of fighting, and, although furlough was not supposed to 
be granted to more than lo per cent of a force, yet this 
rule was not observed 

The power of the Presidents of the two Republics was 
no greater than that of the Commandants. They had 
no means of stopping the lawlessness, which began when 
the Kaffir danger ceased, or of placing the finances upon 
a soimd footing. In 1877, however, England annexed 
the Transvaal, and the opposition to British supremacy 
which then commenced imited the fractions which had 
hitherto divided the country, but during the Zulu war 
of 1879-1880, Boers and British fought once again shoulder 
to shoulder against the common enemy. On January 
22nd, 1879, ^c Boers saw an English battalion at 
Isandlhwana attacked in front, flank, and rear by Zulus 
armed only with shield and spear, and witnessed its 
annihilation. This defeat made a powerful impression 
upon the population of South Africa, but the heroic be- 
haviour of the battaUon was quite incomprehensible to 
the Boers, and although the British were subsequently 
enabled completely to wipe out this disaster, their prestige 
was shaken, and in December, 1880, the Boers rose and 
proclaimed their independence. 



i88i.] LAING'S NEK. 1 5 

• 

The moment was not unpropitious ; a considerable 

portion of the English army was on service in Afghanistan, 
the Basutos were showing signs of discontent, and the 
development of events in the Nile Valley demanded the 
constant attention of the British Government. England 
at first began to suppress the Boer movement with in- 
sufficient means, but it was just the fighting against the 
few British troops which strengthened the power of 
resistance and gave the young levies their first tactical 
experience. The actions fought in that war foretold 
clearly the phenomena observable in the late one. 

On January 28th, 1881, Sir George Colley, with two 
battalions, one squadron, and nine guns met a column of 
800 Boers without artillery, which occupied Laing*s Nek. 
The Boers, in order to make full use of the range of their 
rifles, had occupied the edge of a plateau with dismounted 
men; their horses, coupled together and left to them- 
selves, were close behind the firing line, but were pro- 
tected from hostile fire by the configuration of the ground. 
The British commander decided to make a frontal attack, 
and his well-ranged guns compelled the enem/s rifle- 
men to quit their position after about 20 minutes. The 
Boers moimted and retired a few hundred yards to the 
rear edge of the plateau, where they ensconced them- 
selves behind rocks. Although their field of fire was now 
limited, yet they were secure from the dreaded English 
shrapnel, and if this were to have effect, the guns would 
be obliged to come within close range of the enemy. 

When the Boers ceased firing and were seen to be 
retiring, the English were induced to advance rapidly. 
The squadron, which hoped to overtake the adversary, 
was, however, suddenly fired into quite xmexpectedly, at 
very short range, and was compelled to fall back while 
the infantry, following behind, was likewise obliged to 
seek cover. Mounted Boer detachments advancing 



l6 THE BOER FORCES. [Ch. II. 

against both Aanks of the British infantry decided Sir 
George CoUey to retreat, and out of a force of about 
i,6oo men he lost 7 officers and 187 men, while the 
Boers only lost 43 men.* 

In England there was dissatisfaction with CoUey's 
leadership, and it was decided to replace him by General 
Roberts, who had shown himself, in the long Afghan 
campaigns, a skilful and cautious leader. But Colley 
wished to venture on a decisive stroke before the arrival 
of his successor, and resolved to occupy a plateau on 
Majuba Hill, which commanded the Boer position at 
Laing's Nek. By means of a night march the General 
reached Majuba Hill, on the morning of February 27th, 
at the head of a detachment of 350 infantry drawn from 
various units.t Each man carried 80 rounds of ammimi- 
tion and rations for three days. The troops were com- 
pletely exhausted by the night march and the steep climb, 
nor could they soon recover from their exertions, as there 
was no water. They lined the edge of the slope, whence 
they could overlook the Boer camp on the plain, but 
although there was on the British flank some still higher 
ground, which afforded an uninterrupted view in all 
directions, they neither occupied nor watched it 

Hardly had the Boers perceived that Majuba Hill was 
in the hands of the English, than they decided upon an 
immediate attack, to be undertaken by only 200 men. 
Covered by a party numbering scarcely go rifles, and 
well posted, which fired at a range of about 900 yards at 
everything which showed itself on the hill, 60 men, taking 
advantage of all cover, climbed the slope in front A third 
detachment, about 50 strong, attempted similarly to reach 
the British flank from the East Colley*s position proved 

• At Ingogo River the Boers attacked the British. — Ed. 

t Two companies from each of the 58th and 92nd regiments, one 
company of the 60th Rifles, and 64 sailors. 



i88i.] MAJUBA HILL. I7 

itself to be a thoroughly bad one. The Boer camp was 
indeed visible below, but tlie configuration of the slope 
protected the advancing enemy from being fired at. 
Every attempt of an English rifleman to raise himself or 
to leave his cover was stopped by the well-aimed hostile 
fire, and, as the Boers then succeeded in reaching two 
eminences on the British flank, the situation of the de- 
fenders became quite hopeless. This feeling appears to 
have so strongly taken hold of the individual soldier, 
exhausted by the night climb, that no attempt was made 
to clear a way with the bayonet after first pouring in a 
heavy fire. Sir George Colley falling, all real resistance 
ceased, and only about 80 men succeeded in escaping. 
The few still unwoimded ones siurcndcred, and the losses 



were : — 










Killed... 


• • • 


... s officers 


• • ■ 


113 men 


Wounded 


• . . 


7 »> 


• • • 


121 „ 


Prisoners 


... 


8 ,, 


• • • 
1 


50 i» 



Total ... ... 20 „ 284 „ 

The large proportion of killed to wounded is remarkable 
and is the best proof that the final struggle took place 
at short range. Whereas the English loss was 60 per 
cent, that of the Boers was apparently only i killed 
and 5 wounded. 

Similarly in other actions, the Boers on the defensive 
held advanced positions with a few dismounted men, 
abandoned them in good time, and fought the main 
action from a retired position, which completely pro- 
tected them from the hostile artillery. Here their fire 
was directed at short range with extreme precision, and 
then a decisive result was sought for by the advance of 
moimted detachments against the flanks of the enemy. 
When attacking, the Boers advanced skilfully from cover 
to cover to within quite close range of the British front 

C 



1 8 THE BOER FORCES. [Ch. II. 

! and flanks in order to drive the defenders out of their 

I 

positions by the accurate fire of well concealed riflemen, 
visible only for a few seconds. A hand-to-hand fight 
was avoided; victory was sought for in the /concentric 
advance to within decisive ranges. On the other hand, the 
Boers were not fortunate when attacking entrenched posi- 
tions ; they had no artillery to prepare the assault, and, 
owing to their peculiarities, they would not attack reso- 
lutely ; hence all the invested English garrisons were able 
with one exception, namely, that of Potchefstroom, to hold 
out imtil the conclusion of peace. Without any further 
serious fighting terms were made on March 23rd, 1881, by 
which the internal independence of the Boer States was 
recognised, their foreign relations being placed imder 
British supervision. 

In the following years the relations between the Repub- 
lics and Great Britain became worse and worse. The 
Jameson Raid in 1856 drew the attention of the Boers 
to the danger which threatened them from England's 
South African Colonies, and the preparations, which were 
commenced after the war of 1881, were continued with 
redoubled vigour. It was, above all, necessary to provide 
artillery in peace time, to give the rifleman a suitable 
weapon and to lay in large stocks of ammunition in case 
of need, while forts, designed to prolong the struggle, were 
built at Pretoria and Johannesburg. Between the repulse 
of the Jameson Raid and October, 1899, these measures 
had been fully carried out Meanwhile the English Intelli- 
gence Department had not remained inactive; British 
officers had explored the country, reconnoitred the railways 
and lines of advance, and had formed correct estimates as 
to the capacity of the land and its military organisation. 

This information was contained in the " Military 
Notes on the Dutch Republics of South Africa,"* 

* Compiled in Section B, Intelligence Division, London. 



1899] STATE OF ARMAMENT. 19 

a secret work which was revised in the War Office in 
June, 1899. Its authors assumed that the number of men 
in both Republics liable to service between the ages of 
16 and 60 amounted to 53,604,* of whom 22,375 belonged 
to the Orange Free State and 31,229 to the Transvaal. 
As the muster-rolls were not particularly accurate, and 
the youngest and the oldest classes would probably not 
take the field, the strength of the Boer levies might be 
estimated at about 40,000 men, without reckoning 
foreigners and Cape Cglonists joining the Boers in case 
of war. 

As regards peace formations the Transvaal had a very 
efficient moimted police corps, 1,400 strong, and a force 
of 600 artillerymen, which could be doubled by calling 
up reservists. The Swaziland Police numbered 120 men,t 
and the Orange Free State had an artillery force of 400 
men, and a police of equal strength. 

The Custom House returns made it possible to form. 
a tolerably accurate idea of the state of the armament; 
in Jime, 1899, the Boers were said, according to this, 
source, to have 34,000 Martini-Henry and 26,900 maga- 
zine rifles of the latest patterns (24,000 Mausers and the 
remainder Lee-Metfords, etc.). In the opinion of other 
authorities, however, the number of Mausers was con- 
siderably greater; Field Comet B. Viljoen calculated 
their number shortly before the war at 43,000, namely, 
38,000 in the Transvaal and 5,000 in the Orange Free 
State. Captain Holcroft, formerly of the Free State 

* According to official reports from the Boer side there had been under 
arms, up to the end of May, 1900, in all : — 
25,4x1 Transvaalers. 
14,843 Orange Free Staters. 

8,925 other inhabitants of both States* mixed commandos. 
2,359 Cape colonists. 
734 foreigners, in corps of 25 to 200 men. 

52,272 

f At Amersfort, on August 7th, 1900, some of them made an unsuccessful 
frontal attack across open ground on an English battery. 

C 2 



20 THE BOER FORCES. [Ch. II. 

Artillery, assumed 70,ocx) Mausers and Martini-Henrys 
and 8,000 Lee-Metfords. 

The explanation of the difference is that the English 
calculations could only be based upon the official Customs 
returns, but many weapons were also imported secretly. 
The authors of the War Office work, however, thought 
they were right in assuming that the Boers would prefer 
the old Martini-Henry, to which they were accustomed, 
to the new Mauser. 

The supply of ammunition was very abundant; in 
June, 1899, there were 23 million cartridges in store at 
Pretoria, and other considerable supplies were in smaller 
depots elsewhere, while, in September, further quantities 
of ammunition, said to amount to 25 million cartridges, 
were imported into the Transvaal vid Delagoa Bay. We 
shall hardly be wrong in assuming a store of 80 million 
cartridges, that is to say, 2,000 rounds per rifle. Con- 
sidering the care with which the individual man was 
accustomed to fire, and the possibility of importing fresh, 
if only limited, supplies during a war, such a store of 
ammunition would suffice for a lengthened campaign. 

In the war of 1881 the Boers had no field artillery at 
all, and at the time of the Jameson Raid only some old 
guns. It was in 1856 and later that guns were ordered 
in Europe. For the forts at Pretoria 16 long 6-inch 
Creusot guns ("Long Tom") and 4 47-inch Krupp 
howitzers were to be made, and the employment of these 
heavy guns in the field was contemplated from the first, 
while, together with a varied collection of field guns, a 
number of light machine guns (Pom-Poms) were pur- 
chased. According to English calculations there were 
in the Transvaal before the war commenced — 

8 heavy guns — 

Four 6-inch long Creusots (weight of shell 

103 lbs). 
Four 47-inch Krupp howitzers. 



1899.] BOER ARMAMENT. 2i 

19 field gfuns — 

Six 3-inch Creusot quick-firers. 

Eight 3-inch Knipp quick-firers. 

Five 3 -inch Vickers-Maxim quick-firers. 

24 Pom-Poms (r45-inch Vickers-Maxim machine 
guns). 

31 machine gtms (Maxims) to take rifle ammunition.* 
All these guns burned smokeless powder, and a suffi- 
cient supply of ammunition had been purchased with them, 
while two agents of the Creusot works erected a shell 
foundry at Johannesburg, which was in work until de- 
stroyed by an explosion in April, 1900. 

The artillery equipment of the Orange Free State con- 
sisted of — 

14 3-inch old Krupp field guns with black powder. 
4 i'4S-inch machine guns. 
6 other machine guns. 

There were also six older field guns of little value. 
The acquisition of a considerable number of such weapons 
had met with the liveliest opposition in the country 
itself, because it was thought they would hinder rapid 
movements. The authors of the "Notes" shared this 
view, assuming, as they did, that the guns would be 
used by batteries as in Europe; but this is just what 
the Boers avoided after the first fighting,t because they 
perceived that three or four batteries with their ammu- 
nition wagons would seriously hamper their mobility, 
and would necessitate their forces remaining in large 
detachments. Just as they worked independently, so were 

* Up to July I2th, X901, the English had captured: Three 6-inch Creusot 
guns ; one 4'7-inch Krupp howitzer ; one 3'4-inch Krupp gun ; four 3-inch 
Krupp quick-firing guns; twelve 3-inch Krupp field guns; three 3-inch 
Vickers-Maxim guns ; five 3-inch Creusot guns ; one 3-inch Skoda gun ; 
one R.M.L. 6'3-inch howitzer; one smooth-bore mortar; two S.B. 9 pr. 
guns ; one 2*75-inch Krupp gun ; two 2*5 inch Krupp guns ; one 2*4-inch 
Krupp gun ; four 6 pr. M.L. guns (one S.B.) ; eight quick-firing 3 pr. guns ; 
twenty-one I pr. Pom-Poms. 

t At Talana Hill and at Ladysmith on October 30th the guns were used 
by batteries. 



.22 THE BOER FORCES. [Ch. II. 

the guns used singly, every advantage being taken of 
cover, and position was changed as soon as the enemy 
had got the range. 

It was also known that the Boers had a field telegraph 
and several heliographs, but the extent to which the 
personnel and workshops of the Netherlands Railway 
would be used could not be foreseen. 

The "Notes" rightly insisted that in no other theatre 
of war would infantry so much require the support of 
cavahy.as in the Transvaal, but it was not believed 
that the Boers were capable of resisting an attacl^ 
resolutely delivered and supported by cavahy and a 
mobile artillery. 



1899.] ^3 



CHAPTER IIL 

Tactics, Armament, and Equipment of 

THE British Army. 

The British military administration cannot be absolved 
from the severe reproach that it had not '' properly 
appreciated the tactical experiences of former struggles 
tn South Africa; at any rate the troops had not been 
sufficiently schooled in the peculiar tactics of their ad- 
versary. On the other hand, the War Office satisfied, 
in the most brilliant manner, all requirements- respecting 
clothing and equipment ' 

The insufficient tactical training of the English army 
is partly explained by the peculiar conditions under which 
it is called upon to fight; it must be ready to meet an 
enemy, trained and armed in Europe, or, in the border 
mountains of India, an adversary most skilful in taking 
cover and who, with even an antiquated fire-arm, makes 
remarkably good practice. In the Sudan it had to expect 
an assault by fanatics, who saw their salvation in the 
use of cold steel; at one time skirmishing is necessary;; 
at another, troops must be massed together. It is, there- 
fore, conceivable that the experiences of one war 
could hardly be assimilated for the general military 
good; it had, therefore, been left to the troops to find 
out the most suitable formation, and this knowledge was 
almost invariably very dearly purchased. 

The most important result of the campaign of i88l 
in South Africa was, in addition to the development of 
musketry training, the formation of mounted infantry. 



24 BRITISH TACTICS. [Ch. IIL 

especially intended to relieve the cavalry from dismounted 
fighting. It was successfully employed in all Colonial 
wars, with the result that the cavalry neglected that por- 
tion of its duties. The experiences of 1881 do not seem 
to have had any further influence upon the fire tactics 
of the infantry, and the requirements of a South African 
theatre of war vanished before the necessity of keeping 
in close order under all circumstances during the many 
years of fighting in the Sudan. This explains why the 
British infantry adhered to volley firing and showed a 
preference for shock tactics. The other arms also acquired, 
on the battle-fields of the Nile, experiences which 
could only conditionally be put into practice against a 
well-armed adversary. For instance, the artillery had 
learned the annihilating effect of its shrapnel fire at short 
range. It was known that the Boers had few but far 
ranging guns; to get quickly within the most effective 
range of the enemy appeared to the English artillery 
officers the best method of compensating the ballistic 
superiority of his guns. The difficulty in pushing up 
supplies in later wars had given British leadership a cer- 
tain slowness and heaviness; so it was that English 
modem tactics resembled those of the Peninsular War 
and of the Crimean campaign rather than the skirmishing 
order of the Franco-German War. 

But the troops who fought on the North- West frontier 
of India did so under quite different and more modem 
conditions. The necessity of improving the shooting of 
the individual soldier and of developing his initiative had 
become clear. It was from India that came the first sug- 
gestions for a change in tactics, but they were not 
realised before the war broke out in South Africa. All 
those long Colonial campaigns, much as they demanded 
from the troops in the way of exertions and of supporting 
privations, great as were the difficulties of War Office 



1899] TRAINING OF THE BRITISH ARMY. 25 

administration which they involved, had also this great dis- 
advantage that they were prejudicial to the understand- 
ing of war on a large scale. Troops forgot the proportion 
of losses, which they must suffer nowadays, if a serious 
attack is to be pushed home. Small losses were described 
as being serious, and public opinion measured the 
capacity of a General by the size of his casualty list 

The regulations imder which the army took the field 
in 1899 followed comparatively closely the lines of the 
German ones. The unfavourable conditions of training, 
however, imder which the infantry and cavalry especially 
suffered in the Mother Coimtry, where manoeuvres of a 
varied character were almost impossible, prevented the 
application of the principles approved in Germany. The 
larger tactical units necessary to the development of com- 
bined tactics did not exist in peace time. The Generals 
conmianding districts could exert no influence in this direc- 
tion; they could inspect, but manoeuvres of all arms, at 
which they might have been given commands, were only 
possible at few places in England, and the troops of 
their own districts were changed at stated intervals. 
Manoeuvres in our sense of the word* being held for a 
portion only of the troops in Great Britain, officers and 
men could only learn, after mobilisation, that which war 
requires. 

In the tactical employment of infantry the English 
brigade of foiu: battalions corresponded generally to the 
German regiment of three battalions, with the important 
limitation that it had not that cohesion which results from 
the traditions of the German regiments. In the British 
army esprit de corps dated from the days of Blenheim, 
Malplaquet, and Minden, but this feeling was cherished 

• Lord Wolseley had stated that manoeuvres on the Continental system 
were impracticable in England, as the exertions which they demand would 
unfavourably affect recruiting. 



26 



BRITISH TACTICS. 



[Ch.IIL 



by the battalions, which were qiiite independent units, 
those recruited in Scotland and Ireland having the most 
marked characteristics. The battalion, the largest 
infantry unit in peace, consists of eight companies of lOO 
to 1 20 men each, and a company is subdivided into two 
half-companies and four sections. 

System of attack for a force of &ve battalions.* 

600 yds. 



( i/3rd to 2/5ths of the 
whole : 16 sections 
(400 rifles) in the 
firing line. 



First line 



Supports : 16 sections* 



First line reserve : 
\ half-battalions. 



two 



Second line (for the assault), 
I /3rd to 2/5 ths of the whole ; two 
battalions. 



Third line : general reserve, 
I /3rd to i/sth of the whole : one 
battalion. 



A< 



•3 



xa 



w 

I 



•8 
>» 



•8 



□ □ □ 



' — 1 c 



D 



3 



In the attack the regulations recommended an advance, 
if possible, to within 8cx) yards of the enemy without 
deploying. A brigade advanced, as a rule, in mass of 
quarter-column to within that range and was then 
divided into three lines. The first one, consisting of two 



* A force of five battalions has been chosen in order to represent, in the 
simplest manner, the relative strengths of the three lines. 



1899] INFANTRY TACTICS. 2/ 

battalions^ had a front of 600 yards or so, which cor- 
responds to the front of two battalions in line^ and on 
it devolved the principal part of the fighting. One-half 
of it formed the firing line and supports, while the other 
half formed the reserve of the first line, the respective 
intervals between the lines being 400 yards. The second 
line, consisting also, as a rule, of two battaUons, was to de- 
cide the action by advancing to the assault ; it followed the 
first one at a distance of 800 yards, if the nature of the 
country necessitated deployment at long ranges. The 
third line was kept in reserve and launched in pursuit 
after a successful assault The idea that the last man 
should be employed in order to gain a victory was un- 
known to the regulations. 

Troops, when acting on the defensive, were disposed 
in a similar manner, but the extent of front of a brigade 
was about 800 yards, and the third line was intended to 
carry out a counter-attack. 

Very little weight was laid upon the preparation of the 
attack by fire. A company was to extend one, or, at the 
most, two sections, which were to advance as rapidly as 
possible until within effective range of the enemy, and 
the whole system of fire tactics was based upon volley 
firing. The sections were to advance by rushes of 30 
or 40 yards* imtil within about 300 or 350 yards of the 
enemy; bayonets were then to be fixed and the advance 
continued by rushes until within the storming distance of 
200 or 250 yards, half the number of rounds in the 
magazines being then fired. The second line was by this 
time to have drawn near to the first one, so that both 
could charge together. 

The tactical training of the British infantry suffered 
from the disadvantage of being carried out on training 



* " Infantry Training, 1902," lays down rushes up to 90 yards 



28 BRITISH TACTICS. [Ch.III. 

grotmds which were too small and afforded too little variety, 
while the laws practically prohibited training elsewhere 
than on Government property. The apprehension lest 
troops should get out of hand and shoot badly had led 
to an excessive preference for volley firing, nor did the 
instruction in musketry and in utilising cover correspond 
to present-day requirements. The reports on those 
manoeuvres, which were occasionally held, evinced, con- 
trary to the regulations, a disposition to adopt prematurely 
extended formations before the situation rendered them 
necessary. 

The traditional superiority of the British soldier in the 
use of the bayonet, and the conviction gained on many 
a battle-field from Assaye to Candahar, in the Sikh war 
and during the suppression of the Indian Mutiny, that 
an adversary not trained in a European school could only 
very rarely stand up against a resolute bayonet attack, 
had led to an exaggerated preference for shock tactics. 
It was not generally recognised that in the attack the 
blow must be directed against the enemy's flank and front 
Great attention was paid to the training of the infantry in 
night attacks and night marches. Nevertheless, the troops 
and their leaders had been spoilt by the simple conditions 
of their training grounds, so that they found great diffi- 
culty in carrying out night operations elsewhere. Opinions 
in the army differed as to the desirability of night actions- 
Sir Redvers Buller appears to have been opposed to early 
starts and to operations at night, whereas Lord Methuen 
went rather too far in the opposite directioa 

The cavalry, like that of Continental Powers, was 
trained first of all for attack, but only insufficiently 
in the use of the carbine, and, as was the case with the 
infantry, it had not sufficient facilities for training. The 
want of these rendered it all the more difficult for the 
cavalry to understand the tactics of the other arms. The 



1899] MOUNTED TROOPS AND ARTILLERY. 29 

mounted infantry was intended for dismounted fighting, 
and was supplemented by Colonial levies. It had 
not been possible to give the horses time to recover after 
their trying voyage, and they were also too heavily laden, 
so that the cavalry were precluded almost entirely from 
acting on the offensive. Partly on this account, partly owing 
to the scarcity of maps, to the physical peculiarities of the 
coimtry, and also to insufficient training the reconnais- 
sance results did not answer expectations. 

The artillery, ever the most highly prized arm of the 
British army, had great mobility; its manoeuvring and 
shooting were good, but it was not sufficiently trained 
in fire tactics or in working with infantry. Employment 
in mass was sought after, but there was this difficulty, 
that the brigade division formation did not exist in peace, 
and had, therefore, too little cohesion when formed on 
mobilisation. Hence, as in the Colonial wars, all the 
leaders preferred to use batteries singly, rather than 
employ them in brigade divisions, and a rapid advance 
to within effective range of the enemy was recommended. 
The battles against the hordes of the Mahdi had brought 
out just the advantageous side of these tactics ; they had 
not been able to withstand rapid artillery fire at short 
range. The regulations laid down from 1,500 to 3,000 
yards as the effective ranges, and it was only at these 
distances that the annual practice was carried out 

In England — India formed an exception — manoeuvres 
on a considerable scale being rare, there had been little 
opportunity to develop the marching powers of the troops, 
to increase their intelligence in reconnoitring, to train the 
leaders in handling large masses, or to prepare the 
different arms to work together in action. The army 
was trained for detachment warfare, but not for a great 
battle. It was not recognised that imity of direction, 
the combined action of the three arms in the fight, and 



30 BRITISH ARMAMENT. [Ch. III. 

the ruthless employment of the last man can alone ensure 
success in war. 

The infantry was armed with the Lee-Metford rifle 
M/95, of •303-inch calibre, and a muzzle velocity of 2,000 
feet per second; it was sighted to 2,750 yards, and the 
detachable magazine held ten cartridges which, however, 
had to be inserted singly. The weapon thoroughly satis- 
fied modem requirements, and each man carried 100 
roimds. On the four ammunition carts and two pack 
animals of a battalion were 85 rounds per rifle, and in 
the ammunition columns another 137 cartridges per rifle, 
so that 322 rounds were available for each. 

It was not so much the rifle as the carbine which was 
inferior in the flatness of its trajectory and in accuracy 
of shooting to the Boer Mauser rifle of •27S-inch calibre. 
The superiority of the Boers consisted above all in their 
greater quickness and in their use of the rifle up to its 
extreme limit of range. 

Both sides had machine guns, but the rather clumsy 
mountings of those used by the British offered too high a 
target and so prevented their being advanced from position 
to position during an attack. 

The guns of the horse and field artillery had the same 
calibre, namely, three inches, but, curiously enough, the 
weights of their shells were not identical, and only shrap- 
nel and case shot were used. The shrapnel of the field 
batteries (15 prs.) weighed 14 lbs. and contained 200 
bullets, while that of the horse artillery batteries (12 prs.) 
weighed 12 lbs. 8 oz. and contained 156 bullets. The 
extreme range of the field artillery g^n was nearly 6,000 
yards, but its fuzes were only graduated to 3,360 yards. 
The extreme range of the horse artillery gun was 5,500 
yards, and its fuzes were graduated to 3,690 yards. The 
fire effect of the field artillery was supplemented by bat- 
teries of 5 -inch howitzers, firing a 50 lb. shell filled with 



1899.] EQUIPMENT. 31 

lyddite. As all these types of field guns were very soon 
shown to be not sufficiently powerful, naval guns on im- 
provised carriages were attached to the army ; these were 
12 prs. of longer range and long 4'7-inch guns, while 
light mountain g^uns of 2*5 inches calibre were also 
occasionally used The mobility of the batteries was 
very great; the weight of the field artillery gun and 
limber, equipped for service, was nearly 37 cwt. and in 
the horse artillery 30 cwt 

Each field company of engineers had material for a 
bridge 25 yards long for infantry in file, or for a bridge 
15 yards in length for infantry in fours. The bridging 
train of an army corps could throw a bridge 105 yards 
long for infantry in fours. 

The field telegraph equipment of an army corps was 
sufiicient for 80 miles of line. The regulation entrench- 
ing equipment of the infantry (the Wallace spade), a 
combination of pick and spade, was put aside by the 
troops after arrival in Africa, so that only the entrenching 
tools of the engineer companies were available for making 
shelter trenches. 



32 [Ch. IV. 



CHAPTER IV. 
The Commencement of Hostilities.* 

When Sir George White landed at Durban on October 
7th to assume the chief command in Natal, the greater 
portion of the reinforcements from India had already dis- 
embarked ; the remainder were still on the way, but were 
expected to arrive shortly. With these reinforcements 
Sir G. White had at his disposal over 15,000 well trained 
troops, thoroughly acclimatised to great heat The bat- 
talions, composed only df men belonging to the active 
army, had from 800 to 900 rank and file each. 

Sir William Symons, hitherto the General commanding 
in Natal, had considered it necessary to occupy with weak 
detachments points such as Glencoe and Dundee which 
were of political or administrative importance. General 
White took a different view and proposed to concentrate 
all his forces round Ladysmith, in order to take the offen- 
sive against the presumably separated Boer columns 
crossing the passes of the frontier moimtains. The 
Governor of Natal, however, for political reasons, thought 
it right to dissuade the new Commander-in-Chief from 
carrying out his thoroughly sound plan. Sir G. White 
yielded against his better judgment; he collected, in- 
deed, the bulk of his forces round Ladysmith, but pushed 
strong detachments of all arms along the roads in the 
direction of the enemy. 

It was apparently due to political considerations, which 

* Map 2. 



iSpg.] BOER PLAN OF CAMPAIGN. 33 

are unavoidable in an alliance between two States of 
eqtial standing, that all the Boer forces were not con- 
centrated in one theatre of war. Their small strength 
warranted no dispersion, but political reasons turned the 
scale in regard to the choice of a plan of operations. From 
a military point of view it did not matter whether all the 
forces should operate in the West against Cape Colony, 
or in the East against Natal Both courses offered ad- 
vantages, but as at that time no definite arrangement be- 
tween the Boers and the Afrikanders had been arrived at, 
the appearance of strong Boer forces might, perhaps, have 
decided the vacillators and facilitated a general rising. But 
this idea, which was a good one from a political point of 
view, receded into the background in face of the desire 
to strike a severe blow against Natal, which was hostile to 
the Boers. The result of these conflicting plans was the 
decision to invade both Natal and Cape Colony. Of the 
50,000 men, ready at the commencement of October, 
18,000, under Joubert, assembled along the border of 
Natal; 2,000 men were in observation at Komati Poort; 
in the South 2,000 men were on the Southern frontier 
of the Free State, and 2,000 on its Northern boundary, 
while about 8,000 men were in readiness at Boshof and 
Lichtenburg for the intended investment of Mafeking and 
Kimberley. 

On October nth, 1899, the time fixed by the Ultima- 
tum expired, without a reply having been received from 
England. The Boers, 18,000 strong with 14 guns, 
crossed the frontier of Natal at daybreak in three widely 
separated columns, while the remaining columns set them- 
selves in movement against Kimberley, Mafeking, and 
Cape Colony. On October 20th General Symons' de- 
tached force at Dundee was surprised in camp by 4,000 
men with 6 gims. By making an immediate attack, how« 
ever, he succeeded in driving the Boers from Talana Hill, 

D . 



34 COMMENCEMENT OF HOSTIUTIES. [Ch. IV. 

but the British cavalry, which had been skilfully 
manoeuvred to the Boer rear, did not understand how to 
utiHse their advantage and suffered heavy losses. The 
result of the action had, nevertheless, a depressing effect 
upon the invaders. General Yule took command in place of 
General Symons, who had fallen at the attack on Talana 
HilL 

Simultaneously with the Boer advance against Dundee, 
another column from the north-west, under General 
Kock, had been charged with the task of cutting o£E the 
retreat of the English detachments at Glencoe and Dun- 
dee, and had, therefore, occupied Elandslaagte, 14 miles 
from Ladysmith on the Ladysmith-Glencoe Railway. 
On October 20th General French, in the camp at Lady- 
smith, received orders to occupy Elandslaagte again, to 
restore the railway and telegraph conmitmication, which 
had been interrupted by the Boers, and to join hands 
with General Yule. At 4 a.m. on October 21st, a 7-pr. 
Natal Volunteer Battery (muzzle-loaders), accompanied 
by five squadrons of the Imperial Light Horse and one 
of the Sth Lancers, moved from Ladysmith on Elands- 
laagte; at 8 a.m. half a battalion of the Manchester 
Regiment and a railway construction company followed 
by train. These detachments united about a mile west 
of Elandslaagte.* The officer in command saw some 
mounted Boers on a ridge about 2,200 yards south of 
Elandslaagte who appeared to be watching chiefly in the 
direction of Dundee, whence artillery fire was thought to 
be heard. At Elandslaagte station there were also some 
Boers occupied in plundering a railway train. 

General French ordered his battery to fire at the station, 
and this fire was at once replied to with good effect by 
a couple of guns posted on the heights 5,000 yards off. 
Their second roimd disabled the team of an ammtmition 

• Map 3. 



1899.] ELANDSLAAGTE. 35 

wagon, and as the British battery, by reason of the great 
distance, was unable to reply, it was withdrawn under 
cover by order of General French. Some inhabitants, 
who had come out from Elandslaagte, stated that the Boers 
had only 1,200 men and two gims,* but that they were 
expecting reinforcements from the direction of Dundee. 
French, covered by the Imperial Light Horse, retired to 
the Modder Spruit, and reported at 8.30 a.m. to Lady- 
smith the result of his reconnaissance. General White 
resolved to reinforce him at once. At 11 a.m. the 21st 
and 42nd Batteries, with one squadron each of the 5th 
Lancers and Sth Dragoon Guards, arrived, and by 3 p.m. 
7 companies of the ist Battalion of the Devonshire Regi- 
ment and 5 companies of the 2nd Battalion of the Gordon 
Highlanders came by train, so that French had at his 
disposal 16 companies, 8 squadrons, and 3 batteries. 

The Boer position was on a ridge south of the railway, 
which afforded a clear field of fire westwards; towards 
the north it fell off steeply in terraces to the line, while 
to the south it subsided into an undulating plain which 
extended towards the railway bridge over the Modder 
Spruit, and so suggested a turning movement against its 
left wing. Boer posts were pushed out in front of the 
flanks to the right beyond the railway, and to the left 
on the ridge. After watering their horses the Imperial 
Light Horse and a squadron of the 5 th Lancers advanced 
from the right to drive off the Boer outposts, so as to secure 
a position on the enemy's flank, and to reconnoitre to- 
wards Dundee. French proposed to hold the adversary's 
front with one battalion and to attack his left flank with 
nine companies and the dismounted Imperial Light Horse. 
The field batteries were to come into action between these 
two attacks in order to prepare the way for the assault 
On the other wing the remaining squadron of the 5th 

* The Boers give their strength as 646 men and a guns. 

D 2 



36 COMMENCEMNET OF HOSTILITIES. [Ch. IV. 

Lancers and that of the 5 th Dragoon Guards, supported 
by the fire of a battery, succeeded in driving back the 
enemy's posts north of the railway and in ascertaining 
the extent of his position on that flank. Colonel Ian 
Hamilton* was entrusted with the carrying out of the 
infantry attack. Two of his battalions had been well 
schooled in India in fighting against the frontier tribes. 
Shortly after 4 p.m., while the batteries, escorted by a 
squadron of the Imperial Light Horse, opened fire at a range 
of about 3,800 yards against the Boer position, behind 
which black storm-clouds were rising. Colonel Hamilton, 
taking skilful advantage of cover, led his infantry forward. 
The 1st Battalion of the Devonshires was to advance to 
the left of the batteries against the enem/s front, and 
the remaining troops were to move against his left flank. 
Colonel Hamilton remained with the Devonshires, who 
stayed under cover until the advanced companies of the 
battalions making the flank attack attracted the atten- 
tion of the adversary. This was the time for the Devon- 
shires to attempt to cross the open plain, and three com- 
panies (360 men) were ordered to attack. First of all 
scouts climbed the ridge, then from 350 to 450 yards 
in rear came a thin firing line extended to about 700 
yards, which was again followed at a similar distance by 
the extended supports. The remaining four companies 
of the battalion remained at first under cover and then 
advanced by companies in column of route. 

The two hostile gfxms endeavoured in vain to check 
the infantry advance. When within about 1,100 yards the 
skirmishers halted and began to fire volleys at the enemy's 
position, and the latter replied along his whole front. 
The batteries utilised this opportunity to change posi- 

* He had taken part in the fight at Majuba Hill as a subaltern ; was 
subsequently Commandant of the School of Musketry, and had learned the 
importance of infantry fire during mountain warfare on the North- West 
frontier of India. 




1899.] ELANDSLAAGTE. 37 

tion by advancing about i«650 yards. The supports, 
under cover of the now more effective artillery fire, which 
silenced the Boer guns, reinforced the firing line and 
advanced at a foot's pace until within about 750 yards 
of the enemy. 

The advance of the turning force was greatly facilitated 
by the bursting of the long threatened thunderstorm. 
The Imperial Light Horse, Gordons, and the Man- 
chesters soon mixed themselves up into one single thick 
firing line, which advanced in continuous rushes of about 
40 yards, as laid down in the regulations, against the 
enemy, who was effectually held fast in front and flank, 
and the batteries advanced simultaneously to within 2,000 
yards of the Boers. Colonel Hamilton, who had hitherto 
commanded the frontal attack, now betook himself to the 
right wing and ordered the assault The skirmishers had 
to traverse a distance of about 300 yards to reach the 
position. The signal was taken up along the whole line 
which, firing as it advanced, succeeded in penetrating into 
it The two Boer gxms had again been brought into 
action to repel the charge, an3 they were captured. 

While one portion of the Boers, by holding up white 
flags, showed that they wished to surrender, which caused 
the British to sound the " Cease Fire," another Boer 
detachment of about 50 men made a counter-attack. 
This was at first successful; the guns were temporarily 
retaken, but the English officers again managed to lead 
their troops forward and finally threw back the enemy 
in a northerly direction. Here he came across the two 
squadrons which, having approached nearer and nearer 
to the battle-field during the action, now attacked the 
fugitives at a gallop and rode them down. The Boer 
force was completely defeated The British buried 60 
dead, found 150 wounded, and took 184 prisoners. The 
Boers give their loss as 62 killed and 104 wounded (36 



38 COMMENCEMENT OF HOSTILITIES. [Ch. IV. 

per cent; including prisoners, 54 per cent). The 
English loss was trifling; it amounted to — 

Killed. Wounded. Total. 

Officers s 30 35 (^3 per cent.) 

N.CO.'s and men.. 50 175 225 (7-5 „ ) 

The Gordons and the Imperial Light Horse had 
suffered most, having been crowded together in a small 
space during the assault 

As regards tactics and training, the British force had 
shown itself quite on a par with its adversary. The Boers 
were pressed energetically in front and flank, and suc- 
cumbed to the power of concentric infantry fire at very 
short range, which was effectively supported by a superior 
number of g^s. On the extreme right wing individual 
fire had been the rule throughout The heavy loss of 
officers is nothing strange for the first day a force is in 
action; this happens in all wars.* But the loss of men 
was unexpectedly small, notwithstanding the fact that 
the Boers had used their rifles up to almost their extreme 
limit of range. The ist Battalion of the Devonshires, 
skilfully led across the bare plain, only lost 4 officers and 
29 men, and the employment of the cavalry against the 
flank and rear of the enemy is worthy of all recognitioa 
In spite of this success it appears not to have been possible 
to join hands with General Yule at Dundee ; he learned, 
on the day after his success at Talana Hill, that the Boers 
had been reinforced and were preparing to surround him, 
and he decided, therefore, to avoid this danger by a rapid 
retirement to Ladysmith. 

General White had witnessed the action at Elands- 
laagte ; on the way back to his headquarters he received 
information that strong bodies of the enemy were ad- 
vancing along the Harrismith-Ladysmith line of railway. 
As, with his divided force, he did not feel equal to coping 
with them he approved of the decision of his second in 

* cf. Royal Cab' net Order of August 19th, 1870. 



/ 



1899.] RETREAT OF BRITISH. 39 

command, left behind in camp, to recall General French's 
detachment from Elandslaagte. With his troops united 
he hoped to be able to resume his original plan of cam- 
paign. The mounted troops moved off from the battle- 
field of Elandslaagte on October 22nd, at 3 a.m.y and the 
infantry followed by train at 6 a.m. and later. 

General Yule began his retreat at 9.30 p.m. on the 
same day; he marched at first in a south-easterly direc- 
tion and only reached Ladysmith on the 25th with his 
troops completely exhausted. The Boers had followed 
the retreating British columns and occupied positions 
round that place, General White, notwithstanding the two 
victories of Talana and Elandslaagte, not having been 
able, owing to his forces being scattered, to prevent the 
junction of the separate hostile columns as they debouched 
from the mountains. 

He could not know that the news of these victories 
had induced a number of doubtfully inclined persons to 
abstain from joining the Boers. Now that he had suc- 
ceeded in concentrating his division, he thought the time 
had come to strike a decisive blow. If again successful 
he proposed to continue the offensive, otherwise he must 
make up his mind to be shut up in Ladysmith, if he did 
not wish to leave the immense amount of supplies col- 
lected there in the enemy's hands. These could, it is true, 
be destroyed and the division be withdrawn across the 
Tugela, along the railway, to Durban, 180 miles distant, 
where, after the middle of November, considerable forces 
could arrive. But to abandon the British military camp 
at Ladysmith could not fail to produce an unfavourable 
impression upon the wavering population of South Africa 
and induce it to join the Boers. Should he, however, be 
able to hold a strong force of the enemy in check, then 
the advance of reinforcements would thereby be con- 
siderably facilitated. As events turned out, it was 



40 COMMENCEMENT OF HOSTILITIES. [Ch. IV. 

decidedly disadvantageous for Sir George White to remain 
in Ladysmith, but he could not have foreseen this. 
Nevertheless it had to be considered, in view of a possible 
battle, whether, in the event of a defeat, the whole force 
should remain in Ladysmith, or whether it would not be 
better to reduce the strength of the garrison to a minimum 
and, with the remaining troops, especially with the 
cavalry, retire along the railway by way of Colenso on 
Durbaa 

On October 30th, 1899, Sir George White attacked the 
Boers, who were behind the Modder Spruit to the east 
and north-east of the town, and was repulsed The 
causes of this failure are by no means to be found in 
the way the troops fought, but in omissions and errors 
of leadership, such as the insufficient use made of the 
cavalry, the deviation of the infantry following in rear of 
the artillery from the proper line of march, and the 
despatch of a detachment to the north to operate against 
the enemy's communications before the fight had been 
decided.* It was too late to repair these errors when 
the action was in progress ; the right flank of the 
British position was turned, and as news was then 
received that the detachment sent to operate against 
the enemy's communications at Nicholson's Nek had been 
destroyed. General White resolved to break off the action 

* In the early morning of October 30th, a column, consisting of four and 
a-half companies of the Gloucestershire regiment, six companies of the 
Royal Irish Fusiliers, and the loth mountain battery, under Lieutenant. 
Colonel Carleton, had occupied, after a very fatiguing night march, a long 
hill south of Nicholson's Nek. It was attacked from the west and south at 
daybreak, and Boer reinforcements, which arrived later, surrounded the 
British, who scarcely numbered 900 men, on the north and east. 1 he 
defence was greatly prejudiced by the serious want of ammunition, the pack 
mules, which had been frightened by some Boer riflemen, having bolted in 
the night with their loads. After fighting for nearly ten hours, the British 
officer in command surrendered, as, owing to want of ammunition and the 
numerical superiority of the Boers, whose exact strength will never be known, 
all further resistance seemed to him to be useless, although the officers and 
men were prepared to cut their way through. The English lost 46 killed, 
138 wounded, and 873 prisonersj of whom 37 were officers. 



1899.] BOERS INVEST LADYSMITH. 41 

and to return to Ladysmith. This difficult undertaking 
was successfully carried out, as Joubert absolutely refused 
to comply with the demand of his subordinates to pursue 
the English troops. 

During the next few days the British began to prepare 
for defence the heights which surrotmd the town 
of Ladysmith at a distance of from ij!^ to 3 miles, the 
fortifications consisting of separate groups of shelter 
trenches with overhead and shell cover, while the peri- 
meter of the whole measured about 17 miles. The Boers 
invested Ladysmith soon afterwards and approached on 
the north and south to within about 2,800 yards, and on 
the east and west to within about 4,500 yards of the 
English position, the length of their investment line bein^ 
33 miles. As the time fuzes of the British shrapnel only 
ranged to 3,360 and 3,690 yards respectively, while the 
Boer heavy guns could fire shell with time fuzes up to 
8,750 yards, the English guns could only be used to 
repel a close attack. But this the Boers, for the time 
being, did not attempt They contented themselves with 
firing, without any system, at the British positions with 
their field gims, two long 6-inch Creusot guns and four 
howitzers and, as they only employed " direct fire," ceased 
firing altogether at night and on Simdays and, further, 
spared an agreed neutral zone, the result hoped for was 
not realised Although the troops were confined by day 
to the bomb-proof works and covered trenches, yet they 
were enabled, at night and on Sundays, to recover from 
the effects of the bombardment 

When Sir George White, on November nth, refused 
a demand to lay down his arms, only some weak Boer 
Commandos remained before Ladysmith, while about 
9,000 men in three columns advanced southwards in order 
to attack the British reinforcements expected at Durban 
which, at that time, was occupied only by men from the 



42 COMMENCEMENT OF HOSTILITIES. [Ch. IV. 

Fleet A portion of the Natal Volunteers were shut up 
in Ladysmithy and another portion had retired along the 
railway vid Colenso to Estcourt By some neglect the 
rifle clubs, which existed in most places, to repel the 
invasion which the Natal Colonists themselves had feared, 
had not been called out in time. The lesson drawn from 
the first Boer war by General Gordon, the defender of 
Khartum, that the Boers should be fought in their own 
way, namely, by mounted riflemen under specially 
selected leaders, whom the English troops of the line 
were to follow as a reserve, had been completely forgotten. 
But the Boers had also lost precious time. On the 
day when they crossed the Tugela, the first British bat- 
talions had already landed at Durban and had been sent 
on at once by rail to Estcourt, where they, as well as 
another English detachment at Weston, were surroimded 
by the advancing Boer columns. On November 23rd 
Boer scouting parties appeared before Howick, north-west 
of Pietermaritzburg, and only about 80 miles from Durban, 
but offensive operations stopped here. News had reached 
Pretoria of the advance of English troops from Capetown 
on Kimberley and Mafeking, while considerable further 
forces were said to be destined for Durban. In order 
not to endanger the Boer columns operating in Natal, 
instructions were sent to them to withdraw beyond the 
Tugela and to confine themselves to covering the invest- 
ment of Ladysmith ; but, before these orders were received, 
Joubert had begun to doubt whether he could halt at 
Willow Grange with the Estcourt garrison in his rear. 
At a Council of War he explained his misgivings, which 
were shared by all his subordinates with the exception 
of Botha, and it was thereupon resolved to retire across 
the Tugela.* 

* One who fought with the Boers states that Joubert decided to retreat 
when three of his men were struck by lightning at Estcourt, believing thi 
be a sign that the Almighty would not permit the inyasion of Nats3. ' 



1899.3 43 



CHAPTER V. 
Events in Natal up to December 5TH. 

The mobilisation of the First Army Corps,* the order 
for which was announced in London on October 9th, had 
been completed in a relatively short time. Only the 
troops at Aldershot, which were those next for foreign 
service, and the Brigade of Guards had a higher peace 
establishment of trained men fit for service. The re- 
maining battalions were merely dep6ts for the imits 
serving abroad, and had to be brought up to war strength 
by the calling up of numerous reservists. On October 
20th some of the battalions of the first and second 
brigades left England and were followed by other troops 
without regard to the Order of Battle. For instance, on 
October 23rd portions of the first cavalry and of the 
third, fourth and sixth infantry brigades sailed. Up to 
October 31st, 27,000 men, 3,600 horses, and 42 guns had 
been embarked; on November 15th the last transports 
left port, and on November 9th the first troop-ships 
arrived at Capetown. 

General Sir Redvers BuUer, with his Staff, had hastened 
out by mail steamer and landed at Cape Town on October 
31st, but it is not known whether a plan of campaign 
existed in the true sense of the term. For an advance 
on Pretoria! two lines were open to adoption, of which 
the shorter one debouched from Natal, whose sympathies 

* Appendix I. f Map a. 



44 EVENTS IN NATAL TO DEC. 5M. [Ch. V. 

were wholly English. A longer line of advance led from 
Cape Colony, along the railway to Buluwayo, across the 
Orange River to Bloemfontein and Pretoria. The 
British Commander may have decided upon the longer 
route, partly owing to the possibility of disembarking 
troops at Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Port Alfred and East 
London, and partly because there were, in Cape Colony, 
numerous Colonists of Dutch descent who were dissatisfied 
with British rule; the arrival of strong forces was calcu- 
lated to restrain the malcontents from joining the Boers. 

When General Buller reached South Africa he heard 
the news of the unfortunate issue of the fight at Lady- 
smith, and teleg^phed on the same day to White to 
inquire whether he could not entrench himself in Lady- 
smith or, at any rate, behind the Tugela at Colenso, and 
await events. Still more serious news then came from 
the northern part of Cape Colony. Considerable Boer 
forces were assembling on the right bank of the Orange 
River and promised to invade the Colony, which was 
ripe for revolt Within the next few days the situation 
became even worse; the threatened investment of Lady- 
smith had become a certainty and, as the indications in- 
creased that the enemy intended to invade Natal across 
the Tugela, Buller was induced to divert the transports 
as they arrived towards the threatened points, without 
regard to the Order of Battle. The first troopships of 
the first division, Lord Methuen's, reached Cape Town 
on November QtL Of this division Hildyard's brigade 
was sent on to Durban to protect Natal ; the other brigade 
was left to Lord Methuen and disembarked at Cape 
Town. During the next few days the troops to guard 
the lines of communication were put under his orders, and 
he received instructions to relieve Kimberley. Isolated 
bodies of troops were also landed at East London and 
pushed forward to Queenstown under General Gatacre, 




1B99-] BULLER GOES TO NATAL. 45 

on the information that the Boers had crossed the Orange 
River by the Bloemfontein-Stormberg Railway. The 
news that strong Boer detachments had crossed the 
Tugela on November nth was met by the despatch of 
a portion of Gatacre's Division to Durban. During the 
next few days the result of the reports concerning the 
Boer advance in Natal was that fresh reinforcements were 
sent to Durban, and the commander of the second division, 
Lieut-General Sir F. Clery was entrusted with the chief 
conmiand in NataL He reached Durban on November 
iQthy and was obliged on the 22nd to report that Hild- 
yard's brigade was already surrounded by 7,000 Boers 
at Estcourt, that Barton's brigade on the Mooi River was 
in face of superior forces, and, finally, that a third hostile 
column was advancing along the railway on Durban. 
BuUer sent fresh reinforcements to Durban and went 
there himself, as the main portion of his army corps was 
now in Natal, but, astonishing as it may seem, he left 
part of his Staff behind at Cape Town. Recognising the 
inadequacy of his forces, he decided to ask for reinforce- 
ments. In England, however, the mobilisation of a fifth 
infantry division, imder Lieut-General Sir C. Warren, had 
already been ordered on November nth. 

The First Army Corps was split up into three parts; 
on the right wing in Natal there were, under General 
Clery, the second, fourth, fifth, and sixth infantry brigades ; 
in the centre, imder General Gatacre, a mixed detachment 
consisting at first of only 3^ battalions and 3 batteries 
in the neighbourhood of Queenstown ; on the left wing, 
under Lord Methuen, round De Aar,were the first, third, 
and ninth brigades, the last named being composed of 
troops taken from the lines of communication; finally, 
at Colesberg, cavalry was being collected, which was to 
be under the command of General French, who had just 
escaped in time from Ladysmith« The splitting up of 



46 EVENTS IN NATAL TO DEC. s^A. [Ch. V. 

the divisional organisation, owing to the peculiar con- 
ditions of the English army, already explained, did not 
result in the same disadvantages as would have been the 
case with one of the great Continental armies. Never- 
theless the breaking up of the army corps has called forth 
sharp criticisnii but is satisfactorily explained by the 
necessity of protecting simultaneously Natal and Cape 
Colony from a hostile invasion. As the brigades first 
despatched did not suffice for this task, it became neces- 
sary to reinforce them. The question remains whether, 
when the advance of the main body of the enemy into 
Natal was known, it would not have been more expedient 
to have renounced the relief of Kimberley for the time 
being, to have left the defence of Cape Colony to the troops 
already there, and to have concentrated the mass of the 
army corps in Natal for a decisive stroke. 

With the arrival of BuUer the conditions in Natal shaped 
themselves more favourably, and the British followed by 
short marches the adversary, who was retiring behind the 
Tugela. The advanced troops reached Frere on Novem- 
ber 26th; on the 28th the cavalry, accompanied by a 
battery, moved on Colenso and pushed some hostile posts 
back over the Tugela. The English battery opened fire 
against the heights on the far side of the river, and the 
enemy showed artillery there which replied sharply. The 
railway bridge at Colenso was destroyed on the 28th by 
the Boers, who had, indeed, abandoned the offensive, but 
nothing yet showed their intention of offering a stout 
resistance behind the Tugela. In fact the impression 
was that they only meant to hold the line of the river 
temporarily in order to cover .the withdrawal of their 
heavy guns which were in front of Ladysmith. The 
British troops remained inactive in camp, fresh reinforce- 
ments gp:adually arrived, and ammunition and supplies 
were brought up. 



Troops. 


Guns. 


Machine 
Guns. 


10,000 


44 


12 


1,000 


6 


4 


2,400 


12 


4 


iS>Soo 


24 


16 


4,900 


6 


6 


4,300 


18 


5 


9,400 


22 


12 


1,000 


6 


4 


3.500 


35 


2 



1899.] British and boer forces. 47 

At the end of November the distribution of the English 
forces was as follows: — 

(i.) Invested in 

Ladysmitb, General White ... 
Mafeking, CoL Baden-Powell. . . 
Kimberley, Col. Kekewich ... 

(2.) The Field Army : 

Natal, General Clery 

Naauwpoort, General French... 
Queenstown, General Gatacre.. 4,300 
De Aar, General Lord Methuen 

In Rhodesia 

In Cape Colony 

Total 52,000 173 65 

Of the Boer army, some 30,000 strong, there were 
detachments posted along the De Aar-Mafeking Railway, 
and covering the investment of Mafeking and Kimberley ; 
there were also bodies of men guarding the Naauwpoort- 
Bloemfontein Railway north of the Orange River, and 
about 4,000 men were at Colenso to cover the investment 
of Ladysmith. At Colenso, in place of General Lucas 
Meyer, who was ill, Louis Botha had assumed command ; 
he was only thirty-five years old, but had already proved 
his worth in battle. Joubert also, hitherto Commander- 
in-Chief, had been compelled to give up his command in 
consequence of a fall from his horse, and had been re- 
placed by General Erasmus and Schalk Burgher, who 
was before Ladysmith. 



48 [Ch. VI. 



CHAPTER VI. 

Events in Natal from December sth until the 

Battle of Colenso. 

General Buller, acxrompanied by his military secretary 
and four aides-de-camp, went to Cler/s camp at Chieveley* 
on December Sth. Although he did not personally assume 
the command, still his presence must have prejudicially 
affected the decisions of the responsible leader in Natal 

Clery had at his disposal the second, fourth, fifth and sixth 
infantry brigades, each four battalions strong, two regiments 
of regular cavalry, five squadrons of South African mounted 
infantry, and two detachments of British mounted infantry 
raised from men taken from line battalions; there were, 
besides, five field batteries of the first army corps, two 
47-inch naval guns, drawn by oxen, and twelve 12 pr. 
gtms, which had been landed from the Fleet, were manned 
by sailors and the Natal Naval Artillery Volunteers, and 
had a range of from 8,000 to 10,000 yards. There was 
also a Field Company of Engineers with a bridging sec- 
tion. The total strength of all these troops amoimted to 
about 16,000 men, of whom 2,600 were mounted, 44 guns 
and 16 machine guns.t There were, besides, in Natal, 
between Chieveley and Durban, one battalion of the 
Dublin Fusiliers, a battalion of the Somersetshire Light 
Infantry, the Durban Light Infantry, and the Imperial 

* Map 4. t Appendix H. 



1899] BRITISH RECONNAISSANCE. 49 

Light Infantry. At Frere, Estcourt, and on the Mooi River 
respectively were two naval long range 12 pr. guns. The 
commencement of the operations was delayed until 
December nth, as the railway bridge at Frere, no yards 
in length, which had been destroyed by the Boers, was 
only restored on December 8th. 

The information concerning the enemy was decidedly 
scanty. Owing to the fact that no British recoimoitring 
parties had crossed the Tugela, it was not known whether 
the Boers had only some weak posts on the left bank, 
or whether they were resolved to venture on a general action 
in order to cover the investment of Ladysmith. Buller 
thought he was justified in assuming that the Boers would 
not seriously oppose his advance beyond the Tugela, 
because they had retired across it without offering re- 
sistance, and, besides, favourable news respecting 
Methuen's move on Kimberley was also received, and the 
troops elsewhere were marching northwards. 

He himself reconnoitred the position of the enemy on 
December 6th and December 8th, and troops in close 
order advanced on Colenso ; although they saw the Boer 
tents they were not fired upon, nor did they observe any 
preparations whatever for defence or any men on the oppo- 
site heights. Serviceable maps not being available, a sketch 
of the country in front of the enemy's position was made,* 
and the ranges to the most important points were measured 
with the artillery range-finder, but even then no recon- 
naissance was made of the river itself. Copies of the 
sketch were printed and issued to officers. 

The Tugela, which, in Kaffir langxiage means "the 
terrible one," divides the coimtry into two quite distinct 
parts.t North of the river the ground rises in ntunerous 
terraces which tower one above the other, and through 

♦ Map 5. t Map 6. 

E 



so DEC sih TO BATTLE OP COLENSO. [Ch. VI. 

which runs the road to Ladysmith; Grobler's Kloof, a 
flat-topped hill, at once catches the eye. The ground on 
the right bank is of a totally different character ; a broad 
ravine with steep sides falls gently away from Chieveley 
towards Colenso; neither tree nor shrub impedes the 
view, and the only available cover is afforded by some 
ant hills and dongas; but, owing to their situation, the 
latter could not be utilised for an advance. The Boers 
naturally did not anticipate being attacked from that 
direction, as a few skirmishers could easily check an 
advancing enemy. The houses near Colenso Railway 
Station afforded only slight cover, whereas an attack could 
be carried out within reasonable distance of the Frere- 
Colenso Railway imder not only more favourable but, 
in some respects, very advantageous conditions. To the 
west the deep valley of the Doomkop Spruit, of which 
only the lower course is overlooked by the left bank of 
the Tugela, offered obvious advantages for an advance, 
while to the east of the line the coimtry was still more 
suitable for an attacking force. Hlangwane Hill is a 
steep spur which forces the Tugela to make a large bend 
northwards, and it completely commands the region to 
the west and north. If a reconnoitring party had 
managed to reach its summit every detail of the Boer 
position would have been exposed to its view. To 
occupy Hlangwane Hill was, therefore, the first thing to 
do before making an attack, and if guns had been brought 
up on to it the adversary would then have been com- 
pelled to abandon the heights on the left bank 

English troops had been stationed in that district in 
time of peace ; hence it was known that the Tugela was, 
as a rule, about 200 yards broad and over 20 feet deep 
in places, while its banks were from 18 to 25 feet in 
height; but there were two fords two and three miles 
respectively above Colenso. In consequence of the 



1899] BULLER'S PLAN. 5 1 

summer heat, however, all the watercourses were nearly 
diy; it might, therefore, have been assumed that the 
river would be smaller and shallower than usual without 
altogether losing its character as an obstacle. As a 
matter of fact, in the middle of December it was only 
about 50 yards wide and nowhere more than about 6 feet 
deep, while numerous shallows rendered wading easy. 

Buller proposed to make the enemy quit his posi- 
tion by means of a turning movement An advance 
vid Weenen on Ladysmith, in an easterly direc- 
tion, would have necessitated a long circuit through a 
wooded and hilly region, and the loss of time consequent 
thereon, together with the difficulties of supply, caused 
him to abandon this plan and to decide to move towards 
his left A short march, partly by night, would enable 
him to reach the Tugela at Potgieter's Drift, and once 
the river was crossed there the difficulties in the way of 
an advance on Ladysmith would be trifling. Buller 
reported his intention to the War Office in London early 
on December nth; he also informed White by heUo- 
graph that he was going to attack the enemy in force 
on December 17th, and the latter General at once made 
arrangements to co-operate with Buller. Orders were 
issued to Barton's brigade to advance with two 4-7-inch 
guns and six 12 prs. early on December 12th to Chieveley» 
where it was to take up a position on an eminence nearly 
four miles from Colenso so as to cover the march. Buller, 
however, changed his mind on the evening of December 
nth; he abandoned his plan of marching towards his 
left, but he did not cancel his orders to Barton. His 
reasons for acting thus are a matter of conjecture ; it may 
be that White's report as to the sickness among his troops 
and their anxiety to be relieved, or the conviction that 
he had only to show a bold front to make the enemy 
evacuate his position was the cause. It is, how« 

£ 2 



52 DEC. sth TO BATTLE OF COLENSO. [Ch. VI. 

ever, more probable that the difficulty of supply in 
the event of his intended march taking place, coupled 
with the unfortunate news of Methuen at Magersfontein* 
and Gatacre at Stormberg,t impressed upon General Buller 
the desirability of an early success in Natal in order to 
wipe out the effect of these defeats. After a victory he 
could leave the management of future operations to Clery, 
while he himself might successfully direct those in the 
west, but a turning movement would delay his departure 
for several days. 

At an early hour on December 12th Barton's brigade 
advanced to within about three miles of Colenso; the 
naval guns took up a position about four miles from where 
the enemy was supposed to be, and ammunition for the 
next few days was brought up. The long range rendered 
it extremely difficult to observe the effect of their fire, and 
a signalling party on Hlangwane Hill to report this would 
have been of great service, but, since no patrols were sent 
there, the British did not know that a Boer Coiomando 
Tiad occupied it 

The naval guns opened fire with lyddite shells at 7,000 
.and 10,000 yards range respectively against Fort Wylie 
and the more northerly situated positions of the enemy 
in the early morning of December 13th. The fire was 
continued with interruptions throughout the whole day, and 
in the course of six hours two large gaps were seen in Fort 
Wylie. The enemy did not reply and the firing was 
resumed on December 14th ; it lasted from 8.40 a.m. until 
10 a.m., from 10.30 a.m. until 11 a.m., and, with short 
intervals, from 3.30 p.m. until dusk. Meanwhile the 

♦ Cf. later. 

t General Gatacre's attempt, on the night of December 9-10, to surprise 
the Boers, who held the important railway junction at Stormberg, resulted 
in his total defeat. The British lost 28 killed, 61 wounded, and 634 
unwounded prisoners. General Gatacre was then obliged to retreat to 
Sterkstroom. 




18990 ORDERS FOR ATTACK. 53 

Boers had not fired a shot, nor had they shown any of 
their men, and doubts arose as to whether they still occu- 
pied their position. The cavalry had neglected to place 
an observation post on Hlangwane Hill or to send scout- 
ing parties across the river, nor could the British make 
up their minds to allow infantry to approach within 
effective range of the enemy's position, so that information 
was derived solely from incidental observations and the 
very doubtful statements of Kafiir spies. BuUer assembled 
his brigadiers on the evening of December 14th and in- 
formed them of his intention of attacking early on the 
following day. General Clery being directed to make 
arrangements accordingly. Buller had been of opinion 
on December nth that a frontal attack could not possibly 
succeed, yet he now resolved to make one, believing, no 
doubt, that he had only to deal with a weak enemy, and 
it was probably for this reason that White was not in- 
formed of his intention. The mounted troops with a 
battery were to advance on Hlangwane Hill, the river was 
to be crossed by one brigade on the left wing and by 
another at Colenso, while two brigades were to remain 
in the centre as a reserve. 

General Clery, in accordance with these general instruc* 
tions, issued his orders for the attack, and they met with 

BuUer's approval 

Chieveley, December 14th, 1899, 

10 p.m. 

1. The enemy is entrenched in the kopjes north 
of Colenso bridge. One large camp is reported to 
be near the Ladysmith road, about five miles north- 
west of Colenso. Another large camp is reported 
in the hills which lie north of the Tugela in a 
northerly direction from Hlangwane HilL 

2. It is the intention of the General Of&cer Com- 
manding to force the passage of the Tugela to- 
morrow. 



54 DEC. 5/A TO BATTLE OF COLENSO. [Ch. VI. 

3. The Fifth Brigade (i) will move from its present 
camping-ground at 4.30 a.m. and march towards the 
Bridle Drift, immediately west of the junction of 
Doomkop Spruit and the Tugela. The brigade will 
cross at this point, and after crossing move along the 
left bank of the river towards the kopjes north of 
the iron bridge (2). 

4. The Second Brigade (3) will move from its 
present camping-ground at 4 a.m. and, passing south 
of the present camping-ground of No. i and No. 2 
divisional troops (4), will march in the direction of 
the iron bridge at Colenso. The brigade will cross 
at this point and gain possession of the kopjes north 
of the iron bridge. 

5. The Fourth Brigade (5) will advance at 4.30 a.m. 
to a point between Bridle Drift and the railway, so 
that it can support either the Fifth or the Second 
Brigade. 

6. The Sixth Brigade (6) (less a half-battalion 
escort to baggage) will move at 4 a.m. east of the 
railway in the direction of Hlangwane Hill to a 
position where it can protect the right flank of the 
Second Brigade and, if necessary, support it or the 
mounted troops referred to later as moving towards 
Hlangwane Hill 

7. The Officer Commanding Mounted Brigade will 
move at 4 a.m. with a force of i,cxx) men and one 
battery of No. i Brigade Division in the direction of 
Hlang^wane Hill ; he will cover the right flank of the 
general movement and will endeavour to take up a 

(i^ General Hart. 

(2) The road bridge is here meant. 

(3) General Hildyard. 

(4) Divisional troops are those which do not form part of the infantry 
brigades. Cavalry, artillery, and engineers were divisional troops No. (i), 
and the remainder were No. (2). 

(5) General Lyttelton. (6) General Barton. 




1899] ORDERS FOR ATTACK. $$ 

position on Hlangwane Hill, whence he will enfilade 
the kopjes north of the' iron bridge. 

The Officer Commanding mounted troops will also 
detail two forces of 300 and 500 men to cover the 
right and left flanks respectively and protect the 
baggage. 

8. The Second Brigade Division, Royal Field Artil- 
lery, will move at 4.30 a.m., following the Fourth 
Brigade, and will take up a position whence it can 
enfilade the kopjes north of the iron bridge. This 
brigade division will act on any orders it receives frgm 
Major-General Hart. 

The six Naval guns (two 4* 7-inch and four 12 prs.), 
now in position north of the Fourth Brigade, will 
advance on the right of the Second Brigade Division, 
Royal Field Artillery. 

No. I Brigade Division, Royal Field Artillery (less 
one battery detached with mounted brigade), will 
move at 3.30 a.m. east of the railway and proceed 
under cover of the Sixth Brigade to a point from 
which it can prepare the crossing for the Second 
Brigade. 

The six Naval guns now encamped with No. 2 
divisional troops will accompany and act with this 
brigade division. 

9. Refers to orders for the baggage. 

10. The position of the General Officer Command- 
ing will be near the 4* 7-inch gims. 

The Commanding Royal Engineer will send two 
sections 17th Company, Royal Engineers, with the 
Fifth Brigade and one section and headquarters with 
the Second Brigade. 

11. Each infantry soldier will carry 150 rounds 
on his person, the ammunition now carried in the 
ox wagons of regimental transport being distributed. 
Infantry greatcoats will be carried in two ox wagons 
of regimental transport, if brigadiers so wish; other 
stores will not be placed in these wagons. 




S6 DEC. ^ih TO BATTLE OF COLENSO. [Ch. VI. 

12. The Officer Commanding the Sixth Brigade 
will send half a battalion as baggage escort The 
two naval guns, which are now immediately to the 
south of the divisional headquarters, will move at 
5 a.m. to the position at present occupied by the 
47-inch guns. 

By Order, 

(Signed) B. HAMILTON, 

Colonel, A. A. G. Southern 
Natal Field Force. 



18990 57 



CHAPTER VII. 
The Battle of Colenso.* 

Louis Botha had assembled some 5,000 or 6,000 men 
in a position behind the Tugela, and of these 800 were at 
Springfield in front of the right wing and a similar 
number at Weenen in advance of the left flank. There 
were also about 10,000 Boers with 28 guns around Lady- 
smith. Botha had employed Kaffirs to fortify his position 
north of Colenso, and had issued instructions on no 
account to reply to the British guns. The tents were to 
be struck at daybreak so as not to offer a target to the 
enemy. Ever>'body was to remain under cover while a 
bombardment was going on, the fighting position being 
merely occupied by a few observation posts, while some 
shelter trenches which the English had formerly made 
on a ridge, quite close to the river and in front of the 
Boer position, had dummy men and dummy guns placed 
in them with the object of deceiving the attackers. The 
guns available and a Maxim were so placed as to be able 
to direct their fire from Red Hill and Grobler's Kloof 
either against Colenso or the fords above it 

What Botha feared most was that he might be com- 
pelled to abandon his position by the British seizing 
Hlangwane Hill or turning his flank by advancing across 
Red Hill ; nor did he consider it certain that they would 
not make a still longer circuit by way of Springfield and 

* Maps 5 and 6. 



58 THR BATTLE OF COLENSO. [Ch. VII. 

SO move vid Vaalkranz on Ladysmith. Taking these 
possibilities into account he occupied Hlangwane Hill 
and an old kraal below the junction of the Doomkop 
Spruit with the Tugela with 800 men each. The river 
had not been dammed, no wire entai^lements had been 
placed in the fords, and no men were kept in reserve; 
Botha, relying upon the accurate shooting and mobility 
of his men, believed he could repel any frontal attack and, 
at the same time, despatch reinforcements rapidly to any 
threatened point 

On the morning of December isth the Boer forces were 
distributed as follows*: — ^The Free State Boers, under 
Andries Cronje, formed the extreme right to the west 
of Robinson's Farm; at the latter and to the east of it 
as far as an abandoned Kaffir kraal, situated below the 
mouth of the Doomkop Spruit, were the Swaziland, 
Zoutspanberg, Ermelo, Standerton and Middelburg Com- 
mandos, some 1,800 or 2,000 strong. Those of Bocks- 
burg, Heidelberg, Vryheid, and Kriigersdorp, which 
numbered about 1,500 rifles, were told off for the defence 
of the Colenso bridges, while 800 men of the Wakkerstrom 
Commando at 3 a.m. occupied Hlangwane Hill which 
had been evacuated on the previous day. These numbers, 
however, can only be regarded as approximate. As 
regards the artillery, three light gims were in position 
on the heights north of Colenso ; on the eastern slope of 
Red Hill was a 4* 7-inch howitzer, and one on either side 
of the road to Ladysmith; one field gun was on a low 
hill below the Doomkop Spruit, and there was another 
gtm 2,200 yards north of the Colenso railway bridge. 
The gun emplacements had been very skilfully selected, 
and it was possible to change position frequently. That a 
British attack was imminent had been clear since December 
14th, but it is not altogether improbable that Botha had 

* Map 6. 



1899] BOTHA'S ORDERS, 59 

been informed by a traitor of the intention to make a 
purely frontal attack on December 15th,* which intelligence 
would justify the absence of a reserve. In amplification 
of his original instructions Botha ordered that his men 
should not open fire until the English infantry should be 
engaged in crossing the river. In order to render possible 
a surprise of this description, all the posts on the right 
bank of the river were withdrawn with the exception of 
the force on Hlangwane HilL The Free State Com- 
mando was ordered to advance against the left flank of 
the British, and Botha remained near one of the guns 
north of Colenso, a shell from which was to be the signal 
for opening fire. 

At four o'clock on the morning of December isth the 
British commenced their advance. Hildyard's brigade 
in the rear moved off from the right in quarter-column 
following the railway towards Colenso, to the east of 
which marched that of Barton in the direction of Hlang- 
wane Hill, its right flank being covered by the mounted 
troops under Lord Dundonald. Half-an-hour afterwards 
Hart's brigade and the ist Royal Dragoons t moved along 
the valley of the Doomkop Spruit, while Lyttelton's 
brigade, together with the second field artillery brigade 
division, followed Hildyard as a reserve. This brigade 
division, which really formed part of Hart's force, was 
ordered to take up a position from which it could 
enfilade the heights situated to the north of the Colenso 
bridge, but to accomplish this, it was first necessary to 
cross the Tugela. The first brigade division was to 
march at 3.30 a.m and, supported by Barton's infantry, 

* According to information from the Boer side, some commandants are 
said to have decided, on December 14th, and without Botha's knowledge, 
to abandon the Tugela position, but the latter appeared unexpectedly daring 
their deliberations, and succeeded in persuading his subordinates to hold 
their ground. 

t His Majesty the German Emperor is Colonel-in-Chief of the regiment* 



6o THE BATTLE OF COLENSO. [Ch. VII. 

was to come into action east of the railway in order 
to prepare the way for Hildyard's passage across the 
river. General BuUer had stated in a Memorandum that 
at first only the naval g^ims could render effective aid, as 
it was impossible to bring the field batteries into action 
without risk. Six naval 12 pr. g^uns followed the first 
brigade division ; four similar guns and two 4'7-inch gims 
were in readiness on Shooter's Hill, and two 12 prs. were 
2,200 yards further to the rear on Gun Hill. 

At a quarter before five o'clock in the morning, just 
at daybreak, the six naval guns on Shooter's Hill opened 
fire at a range of 4,400 yards on the heights north of 
Colenso, which had been previously bombarded The 
distance was accurately known, and the heights were soon 
enveloped in the heavy, yellowish smoke of the lyddite 
shells. The gimners were convinced that no enemy could 
stand his ground in the face of such accurate fire; field 
glasses failed to reveal the presence of an adversary, nor 
was a single shot fired from his direction. Consequently 
the conviction that the Boers had already evacuated their 
position and that the British were too late was gradually 
strengthened. A rapid pursuit was, imder the circum- 
stances, urgently necessary. 

The officer commanding the artillery. Colonel Long, 
who accompanied the first brigade division, had contri- 
buted largely to the victory at Omdurman by bringing 
his gims into action at decisive range. Although the 
Boer guns carried far, he was still in favour of similar 
tactics, and felt greatly hurt at BuUer's Memorandum, 
which condemned the field artillery to remain at first 
inactive. His opinion was that weak patrols alone held 
the bridge and that they were overpowered by the fire 
of the naval guns. He felt bound to come into action 
quickly, if he was to carry out his task of preparing a 
passage for Hildyard's brigade, which was then approach- 



I899-] LONG*S GUNS. 6l 

ing. Every soldier must agree with his resolve to advance 
regardless of the less mobile infantry, and the only ques- 
tion is whether it would not have been more appropriate 
to unlimber at perhaps about 2,200 yards from the left 
bank. 

The batteries, therefore, with their ground scouts about 
a quarter of a mile in front, advanced at a trot to the 
east of the railway, while the naval guns, drawn by oxen, 
followed slowly in rear. There was no sign of the enemy, 
and Long, when abreast of Colenso, gave the order to 
come into action about 600 yards from the river. This 
was what the Boers had been awaiting, and one shell, 
fired from the gim north of Colenso, gave the signal for 
opening fire along the whole line. The hour was six 
o'clock. 

Some time elapsed before the Boers concentrated their 
fire upon the batteries and found the range, so that it 
was possible for the British to unlimber and send their 
teams to a watercourse a quarter of a mile to the rear, 
while some cover was foimd for the ammunition wagons 
about 900 yards behind the gims. The officers who 
were still apparently mounted, soon had five of their 
number, including the brigade division commander, put 
out of action, and, therefore, the fire of the gims could 
not be concentrated immediately on Fort Wylie, whence 
the hottest infantry and shrapnel fire appeared to come. 
The position was quite unsuitable, it afforded absolutely 
no cover, and the Boer infantry was within 1,200 yards 
of it* Nevertheless the artillery held their groimd with 
apparently some measure of success, since the fire from 
Fort Wylie became visibly weaker. The naval guns were 
engaged in crossing a watercourse! about a quarter of a 

* The statement that the Boer riflemen were only 650 or 850 jards 
distant seems less probable. 

t The same, apparently, in which the gun teams had taken cover. 



62 THE BATTLE OF COLENSO. [Ch. VII. 

mile behind, and Hildyaxd's brigade seems to have been 
still further to the rear, when the Boers opened fire. Its 
brigadier, perceiving that the enemy intended, apparently, 
to maintain his position north of Colenso, adopted a very 
suitable formation for his four battalions. 

It was impossible for the naval gtms, drawn by oxen, 
to advance further, and there were also difficulties in the 
way of unlimbering, because a portion of the Kaffir drivers 
had fled at the first shot, so that the detachments could 
only gradually bring the guns into action about 400 
yards from the batteries in front. Three of the guns 
attached to the mounted troops also took part in the 
fight from a south-easterly direction at 3,300 yards range, 
and the pressure on Colonel Long's batteries was con- 
siderably diminished. Their situation would have become 
yet more favourable if once the British infantry should 
come up, but, as matters stood, they had only their limber 
ammunition, and since all attempts to bring up some 
wagons with a fresh supply failed, the artillery commander 
decided to cease firing at seven o'clock, after a hot action 
which had lasted an hour. He intended to await a favour- 
able moment to get up a fresh supply of ammunition and 
then resume the fight The elimination of these 12 guns 
could not, however, be a matter of much moment, since 
12 naval and 3 field guns were then in action, while to 
the westward the fire of 12 guns belonging to the other 
brigade division, which were to enfilade the heights north 
of Colenso, was heard There were, there! -^re, altogether 
27 gims in action against the Boers. 

The two batteries imder Colonel Long's command had 
lost 2 officers and 8 men killed, and 3 officers and 26 
men wounded; they cannot, therefore, by any manner of 
means be said to have been crushed in consequence of 
this small loss. The British artillery officers themselves 
did not think so when they withdrew their men under 



1899] BULLER AND THE GUNS. 63 

cover at seven o'clock, which they were able all the 
more easily to do as the English skirmishers were then 
approaching the batteries. 

General Buller thought otherwise; he also had been 
visibly astonished by the unexpected outbreak of the 
enem/s fire, and when Colonel Long's two batteries 
ceased firing he beUeved them to have been exterminated. 
Regardless of personal danger, he went close up to them 
and concentrated his attention solely upon what had 
taken place there. He was dominated by the one idea 
not to allow the now immovable gxms to fall into the 
enemy's hands. Yet nothing cotdd have rejoiced the 
English more than that the Boers should have assumed 
the offensive; there was no question of risk as far as 
the guns were concerned, and when artillery has once 
been brought up into position, it is always easier and 
productive of less loss to keep it there than to limber 
up and retire tmder fire. The bravery of the officers 
and men, who lost their lives in the attempts to save the 
guns, is deserving of all praise, but it was a useless 
sacrifice, especially as a strong body of infantry then 
came into action which compelled the Boers to divert 
their fire from the batteries and to turn it on the new 
and more formidable opponent If General Buller had 
not insisted upon the guns being withdrawn, and if 
Colonel Long had not been dangerously woimded, the 
batteries could then have replenished their ammunition 
and again taken an effective part in the battle. 

The escort to the guns, consisting of half a battalion 
of the Scots FusiUers, and half a battalion of the 
Irish Fusiliers, took up a position to the right and 
left rear of the batteries. The deployment of Hild- 
yard's brigade to the west of the railway took a long 
time, and it still remained for it to cross the 400 yards 
or so which separate Colenso from the Tugela, Hildyard 



64 THE BATTLE OF COLENSO. [Ch. VII. 

being apparently of opinion that the ground to the east 
of the line was unsuitable. 

The battalion of the West Surrey Regiment advanced 
in successive lines of skirmishers, in spite of a hot 
fire, to within about 350 yards of Colenso, while the 
Devonshires, marching half-right, placed themselves 
on the right flank. Both battalions, availing themselves 
skilfully of what little cover there was, advanced in ex- 
tended order until they reached the northern outskirts of 
Colenso, where they ensconced themselves and forced the 
Boers to evacuate their foremost shelter trenches. This 
was seen by the naval gunners, but no advantage was 
taken of the opportunity which offered itself, as they 
thought that their own infantry was advancing. The 
naval guns contented themselves with pouring a tremen- 
dous fire on to the ground in rear of the Boer position, 
which prevented any movements of troops taking place 
there, and no further progress was made at Colenso. 
Both battalions had lost about a hundred men altogether, 
and General Hildyard rightly abstained from launching 
his two battalions of the second line in broad daylight 
to storm the bridge. It would only have been possible 
to do this either under cover of darkness or after 
Hart's brigade on the left wing should have crossed the 
Tugela. 

This brigade had meanwhile come into action. Its 
commander was of opinion that it was important to keep 
troops in close formation as long as possible, and to post- 
pone the extension of the firing line as late as possible. 
The brigade advanced at first in mass of quarter-column 
along the narrow valley of the Doomkop Spruit, but then, 
misled by a Kaffir guide, it deviated to the right instead 
of to the left where it was to have forded the Tugela. 
The Royal Dragoons having reported that numbers of the 
enemy were to be seen on the far bank, the Dublin Fusiliers, 



1899] HLANGWANE HILL. 6$ 

which was the leading battaUon, advanced in line of com- 
pany columns at deploying intervals. The battalions in 
rear were still in column of route in a de&le, which pre- 
vented their deployment, when suddenly a gun opened 
upon them with shrapnel from Red HilL Thereupon the 
Free Staters, ensconced on the outskirts of an abandoned 
kraal, opened fire, as did also a gun on Grobler's Kloof 
with shrapnel. The English reports vary greatly as to 
the ranges ; but they agree generally in stating that they 
were from the outset very short, whereas the Boers state 
that they varied from 850 to 1,100 yards, which is the 
more probable considering the losses, which were not 
very heavy. Some skirmishers belonging to the two lead- 
ing battalions managed to reach the river bank; they 
were supported by two British batteries, which were in 
position to the west of the Doornkop Spruit, and they 
held their ground for a considerable time, although all 
attempts to cross the Tugela failed. 

Buller heard the news of this failure at the time when 
the first endeavours to save the guns had collapsed, and 
unfavourable intelUgence was also received from the 
extreme right wing. 

Lord Dundonald had advanced against HIangwane Hill 
with 800 mounted infantry* and a battery, the g^s 
coming into action on the low ground in order to support 
the attack of their infantry. The latter had dismounted 
at seven o'clock near the Gomba stream, and at 8 a.m. 
began to climb the hill, having the 13th Hussars on their 
right The men were able to extend, although they were 
surprised by the enemy's fire at short range, but their 
advance was stopped, as only some of the guns were 
firing at the hill, the remainder having been turned against 
Fort Wylie. The Boers, who appeared to be as strong in 
numbers as the attackers, had the advantage of good 

* BeUmne's mounted infantry had remained behind as baggage escort. 

r 



66 THE BATTLE OF COLENSO. [Ch. VII. 

cover and held their ground, repelling an attempt to turn 
their left flank. General Barton refused to comply with 
Dundonald's request for reinforcements, on the ground 
that he dared not send any without orders, and the attack 
came to a standstill, General Buller, himself, believing that 
it could no longer succeed. 

He had gone into action convinced that only a weak 
detachment barred his way, but he now estimated the 
strength of the enemy at 15,000 men, while the naval 
gunners declared that they had counted 20 Boer guns! 
The plans of the British Commander-in-Chief had not 
allowed for the possibility that the Boers might offer a 
determined resistance, and he, therefore, now decided at 
9.30 a.m. to break off the action. His troops, however, could 
undoubtedly have remained where they were during the 
great heat of the day, and an attempt could have been 
made, under cover of darkness, either to storm the bridges 
or to concentrate all their strength for an attack on Hlang- 
wane Hill, now clearly recognised as the key of the position. 
Sir Redvers Buller, in his Despatch, gives as his reason 
for breaking off the battle the disaster to the guns, alleging 
that if, when the critical moment arrived, his orders had 
been carried out he would have captured the position. 
But he considered that an attack made without the close 
support of the artillery would have been a useless sacrifice 
of brave men. It is true that to have pursued his original 
plan was no longer possible ; although 10 battalions had 
not hitherto been in action, yet the great heat necessitated 
that the troops should first have some repose with a view 
to further operations in the cooler hours of the afternoon. 

Fresh attempts were now made to withdraw Colonel 
Long's guns. Two officers of Buller's and Clery's Staffs 
endeavoured to bring up some teams to the batteries, but 
they were both severely wounded and the horses laid 
low by the fire of the machine guns. The captain of 




1899.] BRITISH RETREAT. 67 

Dundonald's battery tried to reach the guns with 22 horses 
and 13 men, but before he could do so he had lost 13 
of the former and 7 of the latter; being then himself 
woimded, the men abandoned the attempt. Captain 
Schofield/ however, was more fortunate, for he succeeded, 
with the aid of two teams, in getting two guns of the 
66th Battery away. 

BuUer issued orders at li a.m. that no fresh efforts 
should be made in this direction, and that the infantry 
was to continue its retreat So long as the naval guns 
remained in action, the Boers could not dream of carry- 
ing off their tokens of victory, but the former now also 
received instructions to retire. This, however, could only 
be done by the aid of the teams of the abandoned &eld 
batteries, as the naval gims had, meanwhile, been rendered 
incapable of movement owing to the panic which had 
seized the Kaffir drivers and the losses among the oxen. 

The retirement of the infantry was a very difficult opera- 
tion. First of all Hart's brigade was ordered to retreat, 
covered by two of Lyttelton's battalions, which were 
deployed to the right and left of the Doornkop Spruit 
and almost abreast of the batteries of the second artillery 
brigade division. The latter, with the Dragoons as 
escort, remained in action until close on 1 1 a.m. ; they 
then retired across the Doornkop Spruit, took up a posi- 
tion just to the west of the railway and from it covered 
the retreat of the infantry. 

Still more difficult was the withdrawal of Hildyard's 
skirmishers, who were in and aroimd Colenso, close to 
the enemy. The brigadier, therefore, hesitated to give 
effect to the order sent to him, fearing that he must 
suffer heavily by retreating under the enemy's fire across 

* He was recommended for the Victoria Cross, but Sir Redvers Buller 
refused to forward the recommendation on the ground that Captain 
Schofield had only acted in obedience to orders. It was, however, ulti- 
mately awarded to him. 

F 2 



68 THE BATTLE OF COLENSO. [Ch. VII. 

a perfectly open country, while, at the same time, the 
fate of the gmis would be sealed by his retirement But 
Buller sent him fresh instructions after ii am. to retreat 
at once regardless of the guns, and General Hildyard then 
ordered both his battalions in reserve to take up a cover- 
ing position. Supported also by the artillery, he was 
able to collect his two leading battalions without much 
loss. The retreat of the right wing was likewise eventually 
accomplished tmder cover of one of Barton's battalions. 
All the British had left the battle-field by 2.30 p.m., with 
the exception of some isolated groups, which had either 
not received the order to retreat or else would not obey 
it, and apart also from wounded and exhausted men, 
who were left on the field, some of them falling into 
the hands of the Boers. The brigades returned to their 
camp at Chieveley. 

The Boers did not cross the Tugela until 4 p.m., when 
they came across a small party of Hildyard's force, 
under Colonel Bullock, which still held its ground It 
was soon surrounded, and the men, who were either 
wounded or else completely exhausted by the heat, were 
captured. The French Ueutenant, M. Galopaud, states 
that 9 officers and 150 men fell here into the hands of 
the enemy, who then took possession of the 10 g^uns, 
with their limbers, and g full ammunition wagons which 
had, apparently, been forgotten. 

The British loss was small; it amounted to 71 officers 
and 1,055 non-commissioned officers and men, or, in other 
words, less than 8 per cent, of the whole force.* 

The losses sustained by the infantry brigades, which 

• According to Norris' According to the 

" The South African War." ** ' Times ' History." 

Killed 7 officers 125 men 7 officers 138 men 

Wounded ... 43 n 722 „ 43 „ 719 „ 

Missing ... ai „ 201 „ 21 „ 199 ,1 

Total ... 71 „ 1,048 „ 71 „ 1,056 „ 



\ 



21 907 



1899.] BRITISH AND BOER LOSSES. 6g 

were really in action, and by those in the second line» 
together with the other arms, were as follows: — 

Infantry Brigades or the first line. 

Killed. Wounded. Missing. 

Officers. Men. Officen. Men. Officers. Mca. 

Second Brigade (Hildjard) ... — 16 ... 7 186 

Fifth Brigade (Hart) 4 75 ... 16 369 

Infantry Brigades of the second line. 
Fourth Brigade (Lyttelton) ... — — ... 3 8 

Sixth Brigade (Barton) ... — 14 ... i 45 

Cavalry and mounted troops. •• i 15 ... 7 65 

Artillery 2 9 ... 6 41 

vi a vy ... ,,( ,,, ,,, ^". — , , , ^^ 3 

Other troops — — ... — 2 

•3*R** ... ••• ••• ... -^ — » ... 3 "■"" > 

Total* 7 129 43 719 21 ao7 

The six battalions, numbering about 4,800 rifles, which 
had borne the brunt of the infantry action, lost 40 officers 
and 680 men killed, wounded and missing (15 per cent), of 
whom 31 officers and 448 men (15 per cent) belonged to 
Hart's brigade which advanced in close formation. The 
losses of the remaining 10 battalions, which had not taken 
a serious part in the battle, amounted to less than 120 men ! 

The Boers had purchased their success with the triflii^ 
loss of 6 killed and 21 wounded. Considering their small 
numbers they were justified in not pursuing, and an 
order, which was sent several times to their right wing 
to follow Hart's brigade, was, with good reason, not 
obeyed. BuUer subsequently asked for an armistice in 
order to bury the dead and to collect the wounded, and 
the victors granted his request 

A stationary hospital, which had been held in readiness 
at Frere before the battle, was established at Chieveley, 

* The figures in the German text differ somewhat from those given here. 
This total has been taken from English official sources, the numbers men- 
tioned in the German work being as follows: 6 officers and i46N.C.O.'s 
and men killed ; 52 officers and 713 N.C.O.'s and men wounded; 4 officers 
and 33 N.C.O.'s and men missing. — (Trans.). 



70 THE BATTLE OF COLENSO. [Ch. VII. 

to which place an ambulance train had also been brought ; 
four field hospitals were erected about 500 yards north of 
Chieveley, and the dressing stations were set up under 
cover about a quarter of a mile behind the firing line. 
The medical service was hampered less by the number 
of the wounded than by the extent of the battle-field. 
A volunteer bearer corps of 2,400 men undertook the task 
of bringing the wounded to the dressing stations and to 
the field hospitals. By 5 p.m. all the wounded had been 
bandaged and were in the hands of the doctors; they 
were then sent to Estcourt in an ambulance train, which 
performed the journey from Chieveley to Estcourt five 
times between 2 p.m. on December 15th and 8 a.m. on 
December 17th. Some of the cases were sent on to 
Pietermaritzburg and Durban, but as there was not 
sufiicient hospital equipment at those places, it was decided 
to despatch the sufferers to Cape Town, in order to take 
advantage of the favourable climate and local conditions 
which prevailed there. No proper hospital ships were 
available, but a transport was fitted up in the course of 
four and a-half days for the accommodation of 250 
invalids. 

« 

Depressed by his defeat, BuUer heliographed to White 
to the effect that as it seemed certain he could not relieve 
Ladysmith for another month, and then only by means 
of lengthy siege operations, White should bum his cyphers, 
destroy his guns, fire off all his ammunition and make 
the best terms possible with the general commanding the 
besiegers, after first giving Buller time to fortify himself 
on the Tugela. It is worthy of note that Sir George 
White thought this heliogram was an artifice of the 
Boers, and he was confirmed in this view at first because 
he had gathered from Buller's signalling station at Weenen 
on December 15th that matters were progressing satis- 
factorily. 




t 



I 



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I 



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1 

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i 

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4 

I 

4 

4 



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1899] 71 



CHAPTER VIII. 
Comments on the Battle of Colenso. 

The causes of the English want of success at Colenso 
are first of all to be sought in the lack of sufficient force 
of character in the general in command. 

General Buller had made a reputation in Colonial war- 
fare as a tenacious and energetic commander, who had 
complete confidence in his own ability and that of his 
troops. His tactical views are best learned from his 
remarks on the manoeuvres of 1898. In them he had 
blamed the divisional leaders for pursuing too many 
objectives at one time, and for scattering their troops; 
he had pointed out the necessity of all troops and all 
arms working together in action, and of obviating exces- 
sive extensions of front He had also blamed premature 
deployments, if the configuration of the ground should 
permit of close order being maintained. He reproached 
the infantry with insufficient training in the individual 
use of the rifle; the cavalry and artillery for failing to 
grasp the tactics of the other arms. Finally he remarked 
that, in action, touch was wanting between the artillery 
and the general in command. Although these criticisms 
showed Sir Redvers Buller to be thoroughly abreast of 
the times, he was, nevertheless, completely imbued with 
the conviction that, in the field, no task was too difficult 
for infantry if well led. In the opinion of the public he 
was just the man to lead troops strenuously to victory. 

The rapid retreat of the Boers in Natal had strengthened 



72 COMMENTS ON BATTLE OF COLENSO. [Cn.VIII. 

him in the conviction, which was confirmed by the silence 
of their artillery when the British guns were firing at the 
heights on the left bank of the Tugela, that he had only 
to do with weak posts, which would scarcely offer serious 
resistance. This idea showed itself in his dispositions; 
he wished to be only a spectator of the probably trifling 
action, the command in which he had transferred to 
General Clery, a recognised tactician of the English army. 
With this conception of the situation, BuUer left his 
headquarters on the morning of December 15th; he rode 
past the well-ordered infantry columns on the march, and 
betook himself at first to the small eminence south of 
Colenso in order to observe the progress of the fight. As 
no hostile shot was fired, nor any notice taken of the 
fire of the naval guns, which had opened at 5.30 a.m., he 
was confirmed in his original opinion, and he may then 
have considered whether it was really necessary to send 
cavalry towards Hlangwane HilL The advance of the 
infantry was certain to clear up the point soon, but before 
it could approach the Tugela bridge at Colenso, the mis- 
fortune to the two batteries had occurred. 

Buller, on becoming conscious that he had been mis- 
taken in his conception of the enemy's intentions, and not 
having sufficient breadth of mind to grasp the altered 
situation, thrust Clery aside and interfered by taking the 
matter into his own hands. He hurried to the batteries, 
which were still in action, but which soon ceased firing 
owing to want of ammimitioa Self-confidence and 
deliberate reflection had vanished; he was no longer the 
leader, but merely a fellow-combatant; no longer the 
general, but only a battery commander. The physically 
brave man had succumbed morally to the impressions of 
the battle-field. His whole attitude was now regulated 
by the one overmastering determination not to allow the 
guns to fall into the enemy's hands, but he was not clear 



1899] DULLER* S DEJECTION. Ti 

whether they ceased firing from want of ammunition, or 
whether they were completely crushed. BuUer appears 
to have assumed the latter hypothesis, but he absolutely 
forgot that a battery may, indeed, be rendered incapable 
of movement by hostile fire while still being able to 
render very material service, even though the gun detach- 
ments may have suffered heavy losses. Before his very 
eyes futile endeavours were made to withdraw the gfuns, 
and officers of his Staff, including the son of Field 
Marshal Lord Roberts, paid the penalty with their lives. 
Nobody was near him to explain that to hold out is 
easier than to go back under hostile fire, but when BuUer 
himself was wounded, when bodily fatigue on that blazing 
hot day asserted itself, when, from other parts of the 
battle-field, Job's messengers arrived, then his elasticity 
failed him. He gave way, because he believed that 
there was nothing else to be done, and he wished to 
bring to a conclusion the action, which had been commenced 
under quite different assumptions. Orders to retreat 
were issued, but it was the general and not his gallant 
force that was defeated Victory, however, was still 
possible; there were 27 guns in action, and 8 out of 16 
battalions had not yet been brought into the battle. If 
BuUer had held his ground, then December 15th would 
have been merely an indecisive, unimportant fight, or a 
reconnaissance in force. If the blazing hot midday hours 
had been allowed to pass by, Hlangwane Hill could have 
been occupied in the afternoon, or the bridge at Colenso 
might have been stormed at dusk, or shortly before day- 
break. Combatants on the Boer side declare that a 
night attack would probably have been successful. On 
the other hand, if the British were to retreat, then the 
indecisive action would be magnified into a serious defeat^ 
the efiFect of which upon the garrison of Ladysmith and 
upon the demeanour of the Dutch population could not 



74 COMMENTS ON BATTLE OF COLENSO. [Ch.VIII. 

yet be estimated. BuUer, by retreating, acknowledged 
the superiority of his adversary. 

It is not clear why BuUer omitted to inform Sir G. 
White of his intention to attack the Boers on December 
15 th, for there was iminterrupted heliographic communi- 
cation between the two British camps. The inaction of 
the Ladysmith garrison can be explained by the fact that 
it attributed no greater significance to the thunder of the 
guns at Colenso than it had done to the bombardment 
which had preceded the battle. According to the infor- 
mation transmitted from the signalling station at Weenen 
the combat was progressing satisfactorily, and, besides, 
Buller had said he was not going to attack the enemy in 
force until December 17 th. Sir G. White, therefore, had 
every reason to spare his troops for the great battle, which 
had been decided upon, and which would probably have to 
be fought in the vicinity of Ladysmith. 

It would have been too much to expect that General 
Buller should have sought for the causes of the failure 
in his own person and in his own dispositions. His 
erroneous conception was solely due to insufficient recon- 
noitring. Not a single British patrol had attempted to 
cross the Tugela; no British observation post was on 
the summit of Hlangwane Hill, whence it would have been 
possible to overlook the entire country on the left bank 
of the river, and so the changes in the Boer positions 
there escaped the English. At any rate, on the morning 
of the battle, they were uncertain whether the hill was 
or was not occupied. In Paragraph No. i of the 
Divisional Orders it was only stated that to the north 
of it, that is to say on the left bank of the river, there 
was a Boer laager. In Paragraph 7 the mounted troops 
were directed to advance in the direction of the hill and 
to endeavour (!) to take up on it a position from which 
the heights of Colenso could be enfiladed. In Paragraph 



1899.] RECONNAISSANCE. 7$ 

6 the sixth infantry brigade was ordered to advance in 
the direction of the hill to a position from which it could 
cover the right flank of the second brigade. Therefore 
the orders show pretty clearly that the Staff did not know 
whether the hill was occupied or not A German com- 
batant on the Boer side has stated that the English 
patrols went scarcely five miles away from their own 
camp. "Just as it is difficult to see anything here, so 
is it equally easy to reach, unseen, a particular point, 
especially by making a circuit." To the topographical 
difficulties in the way of reconnaissance, which, according 
to Lord Methuen, render it impossible for mounted troops 
to approach within 2,000 yards of infantry, must be added 
the influence of smokeless powder, which enables a few well 
covered riflemen to keep off mounted detachments with 
ease. In any case cavalry will be compelled more than 
formerly to use the horse as a rapid means of loco- 
motion, in order to reconnoitre the adversary on foot 
This will often only be possible by one portion dismount- 
ing and opening Are, while another portion, taking ad- 
vantage of cover, endeavours quietly to approach the 
enemy. 

While the cavalry had merely ascertained the enemy's 
presence on the far bank of the river, but without being 
able to learn his strength and the extent of his position, 
the silence of the Boer guns during the firing on December 
14th confirmed Buller in his original opinion that he had 
only to deal with a weak detachment, which would 
evacuate its position as soon as seriously attacked. 

While the British guns were firing slowly at long ranges 
and no infantry was as yet in action, there was no reason 
why the Boers should see in this artillery fire anything 
more than a cannonade. It was only when skirmishers 
opened fire at infantry medium range that the Boers were 
able to believe, in the possibility of an attack, and then. 



76 COMMENTS ON BATTLE OF COLENSO. [Ch. VIII. 

of course, they felt compelled to occupy their fighting 
positions. 

On the above assumption, then, BuUer had issued his 
orders for the advance. Considering the uncertainty of 
the situation it was at least incautious to send the infantry 
columns against heights, which might possibly be 
occupied, without, at any rate, holding the batteries in 
readiness, or seizing Hlangwane Hill, whence the defence 
of the heights on the left bank could be impeded and 
further deployment facilitated in a high degree. 

But, if BuUer's assumption were correct, he would have 
to calculate on the greater loss of time, which the purely 
frontal attack of the bridge at Colenso would occasion. 
The enem/s resistance could be more quickly broken 
down if the detachments on the flanks should come into 
action simultaneously with those destined for the frontal 
attack. According to the orders, however, Hart's brigade 
was to move off half-an-hour later than, and the mounted 
troops at the same time as the second infantry brigade. As 
Hart's brigade had less distance to go, it was bound to reach 
the Tugela about the same time as that of Hildyard. 

The surprise of Hart's brigade and of the artillery by 
the enemy's fire are events which occur in every campaign, 
especially during the first battles ; they are fortuitous and 
can only be to a certain extent guarded against by good 
reconnoitring.* The subordinate leaders must be taught 

* On August i8th, 1870, the artillery of the i8th infantry division and 
the Corps artillery of the ninth Corps, which were ahead of the infantry 
advanced guards, were, as they were coming into position on the heights 
north-east of Verncville, completely surprised by French infantry fire at 
scarcely 1,100 yards range. Fired at concentrically in front, on the left 
flank, and even partly taken in rear, the artillery suffered great loss in a 
Tery short time. The reason for this precipitate pushing forward of tho 
guns without infantry protection was the erroneous conception of the situa- 
tion formed by the General commanding the ninth Corps on insuflicient 
reconnaissance data. He took the 4th French Corps, which was still in 
camp on the heights at Amanweiler, for part of the rear-guard of the French 
army, which was supposed to be retreating on the Ome, and he wanted to 
hola it fast by means of a " strenuous attack " by the artillexy, which had 
been hurried up in front of the infantry. 




1899] HILDYARD'S TACTICS. 77 

to extricate their men rapidly from such a situation. How- 
ever well trained for war troops may be, the first action 
brings surprises* which must be reckoned with, ind which 
may frequently lead to an immediate alteration in the 
conduct of a battle. 

The advance of Hildyard's two leading battalions across 
the open plain in several thin and successive lines of 
skirmishers was well managed, and their losses were, in 
consequence, very small. The Brigadier's resolve not to 
put his last battalions into a purposeless attack on the 
bridge was perfectly right. He had to keep them back 
in order to give the Commander-in-Chief the possibility 
of not only -changing his plan, which had been based on 
false assumptions, but also of attaining his object. 

Concerning the Boer method of fighting, the German 
Military Attach^, Captain von Liittwitz, wrote as follows : 
^ The continuous infantry fire of the Boers, at medium and 
long ranges, is described also in this battle as having been 
beyond all praise. True, the ranges had been accurately 
measured beforehand without the English suspecting this, 
and the artillery always found the range at the first round." 
The Boers had confined themselves to a pure but ex- 
tremely skilful defensive ; their weak force prohibited all 
offensive action, nor was it possible for them to reap the 
spoils of their victory to any real extent 



r ♦ When, on August i6th, 1870, the 2nd Battalion of the 35th Fusiliers 
attacking Vionville, crossed the hill south of it in two lines, it was surpris^ 
at a range of scarcely 550 yards by such an overwhelming shell, rifle and 
mitrailleuse fire that the two companies in the second line, formed as a 
half battalion, lost one-third (8 officers and 185 men) of its strength in a 
few nioments and retired to the churchyard close by. The first line, how- 
ever, in spite of severe losses, continued its advance and took Flavigny and 
Pappelwaldchen ; these two companies lost 43 killed and 116 wounded, the 
total loss of the battalion amounting to 14 officers and 404 men. 



78 [Ch. IX« 



CHAPTER IX. 

Operations of Lord Methuen up to December 8th. 

The Boer successes in Natal had put a stop to the 
proposed British advance from Cape Colony on Bloem- 
fontein and Pretoria.* Only those troops of the First 
Army Corps, which were the first to arrive at Cape Town, 
were landed there, the remainder being sent on to Dur- 
ban, East London, and Port Elizabeth, on the receipt 
of the unfavourable news from Natal. In the western 
theatre of war about 10,000 men from the Orange Free 
State and Transvaal had begun to move towards the 
south, along the railway, which leads from Buluwayo to 
Mafeking, Kimberley, De Aar, and Cape Town. The 
Boers invested the English garrisons at Mafeking and 
Kimberley, and destroyed the large railway bridge across 
the Orange River at Hopetown, but they only despatched 
small parties across the stream, when they learned that 
a considerable British force was on the left bank. 

The English had been reinforced by troops from India, 
and about 4,000 men held the important railway junctions 
of De Aar and Naauwpoortt in the north of Cape Colony, 
while detachments had been pushed forward to Hope- 
townt on the Orange River, and to Aliwal North and 
StormbergS on the East London Line. 

• Map 2. 

t 2nd Northumberland Fusiliers, xst Munster Fusiliers, half 2nd York- 
shire Light Infantry, and 2,000 volunteers. 

I Half Loyal North Lancashire. 

5 2nd Berkshire and mounted infantry. 



1899] WANT OF MAPS. 79 

Sir Redvers Buller confided to Lieut-General Lord 
Methuen, who commanded the first division, the task of 
protecting Cape Colony and of relieving Kimberley^ which 
was loudly demanded by public opinion at home. The 
Brigade of Guards, which had disembarked at Cape Town 
on November 12th and 13th, was the only portion of 
Methuen's division at hand, and it was entrained for the 
Orange River, 600 miles distant The Highland Brigade 
of the second division had also landed at Cape Town and 
was placed under Lord Methuen's orders, but it was kept 
back at first to guard the long line of communications. 
Lord Methuen and his Staff preceded the troops and 
arrived at Orange River Station on November 12th. 
The of&cer commanding the 9th Lancers, who were watch- 
ing the river, informed the general that the enemy was 
occupying a position at Belmont with 2,cxx) men and two 
guns. 

Lord Methuen was acquainted with the country on the 
right bank of the Orange River, having previously taken 
part in military expeditions there. Before the British 
troops could reach Kimberley they would have to traverse 
a large plain covered with short grass and low bush, and 
intersected by deep river beds, which were often dry 
during the hot season. Long ridges afford positions 
favourable for defence, which are difficult to turn, and 
which, owing to the magnificent field of fire in front of 
them, can be held against a superior force with good 
probability of success. Serviceable maps were not 
available, those in possession of the English officers having 
been prepared merely for the purposes of land registra- 
tion, and with no regard whatever to military require- 
ments ; they were supplemented by sketches hastily made, 
which contained the results of the daily reconnaissances. 

The baggage train of English troops is inordinately 
large and requires a great number of draught animals, 



8o LORD METHUEirS OPERATIONS. [Ch. IX. 

but Lord Methuen resolved to reduce his trains to a 
minimum as, owing to the heat, a scarcity of water was 
to be apprehended in the plain on the north bank of the 
Orange River. 

The consequence was that the advancing troops were 
obliged to keep in close touch with the railway, because 
the country on the right bank afforded only a limited 
quantity of supplies ; therefore the line of conununication 
attained an importance altogether out of proportion to 
the small force engaged in the operations under Methuen. 

The diminished mobility of his troops was bound to 
impede his operations greatly in face of an adversary, 
who paid no heed to either baggage or trains; but 
Methuen's view, after the first fighting had taken place 
in Natal, was that an attempt to outmanoeuvre the enemy 
from his position promised to be less successful than would 
be an attack carried out with energy. He did not be- 
lieve that the Boers would face a hand-to-hand struggle. 

The Brigade of Guards had been reinforced by another 
brigade, the ninth, composed of troops in granrison in 
Cape Colony, under General Fetherstonhaugh, by two 
companies of engineers, a Naval Brigade, 400 strong, with 
4 naval 12 pr. guns, drawn by oxea The number of 
mounted troops was very small Lord Methuen had at 
his disposal only the 9th Lancers, about 60 men of the 
New South Wales Lancers, 1 50 men of Rimington's Guides 
and three companies of mounted infantry. Rimington's 
Guides were serviceable Colonists, enlisted for the dura- 
tion of the war, and they were attached, as circumstances 
required, to the Staffs or to the troops. There were, 
therefore, with the British column only 900 horsemen, a 
small number for operations on an open plain against an 
enemy, of whom every man was mounted. 

Lord Methuen crossed the frontier with 7,500 men 
and 16 gxms on November 22nd and halted at Belmont, 



1899] BELMONT. 8 1 

five miles from the Boer position, on that afternoon. 
This position was on a ridge about 4,500 yards in length, 
which rose steeply to a height of about 200 feet from 
the plain, which was quite level. On this ridge were 
three knolls which appeared to be very strongly occupied 
by the enemy. Lord Methuen, rightly appreciating the 
difficulty of advancing across the plain under the full fire 
of the adversary, proposed to move his infantry, tmder 
cover of the darkness, close enough to the position to be 
able to storm it at daybreak. The Guards brigade was 
to advance on the right, while the ninth infantry brigade 
was to form the left wing. As there were no maps avail- 
able, it is not surprising that errors arose in estimating 
the distance from the camp to the enemy's position, and 
in discovering the proper p>oints of direction in order to 
carry out the night march. Another mistake was that 
the Guards were late in moving off, and the ninth brigade 
also seems to have got in touch with the enemy con- 
siderably later than had been intended. It was day- 
light when the Guards were first fired upon at a 
range of about 900 yards; they were already deployed 
for attack, with two battalions in the first line and two 
in the second, while the distance between each man in 
the firing line was five paces. The supports reinforced 
the latter, the companies in reserve likewise were ex- 
tended, and the whole force, advancing by long rushes 
and with but short pauses to take breath, endeavoured to 
reach the dead ground at the foot of the ridge. Taking 
advantage of this cover the Guards formed up for assault, 
and their determined charge drove back the Boers. By 
this time the ninth infantry brigade had come into action 
on the left, and the fight was over at 7.30 am,, after having 
lasted only four and a-half hours. The infantry were 
too fatigued to be able to pursue the mounted adversary, 
and, indeed, this would have been hopeless in any case; 

G 



82 LORD METHUEN'S OPERATIONS. [Ch. IX. 

nor could the artillery follow him up, as the teams had 
not yet recovered from the effects of the long sea voyage. 
The cavalry pursuit was soon stopped by a fresh body 
of 800 Boers with two guns, who appeared on the scene 
and covered the retreat of the defenders. 

The British loss was very small, and amounted to 4 
officers and 71 men killed, and 21 officers and 270 men 
wounded, in other words a loss of about 5 per cent of 
the infantry, while that of the Boers was about 100 men. 

Lord Methuen continued his advance on the following 
day and defeated a hostile detachment at Graspan on 
November 25 th. While that portion of the enemy, which 
had been defeated, was retiring with Cronje along the 
railway, other Boer detachments of considerable strength 
appeared on the flanks of the English. Lord Methuen 
thought he was not far wrong in estimating the force of 
the enemy in his immediate neighbourhood at 8,0CXD men 
and 8 guns. 

The Boer commander did not propose to harass the 
British during the next few days, but to collect a con- 
siderable force on the Modder River, and he destroyed 
the large railway bridge across it on November 27tL 
The Boers now changed their tactics ; hitherto they had 
occupied the summits of the ridges which were, as a rule, 
difficult to climb, but on this occasion they ensconced 
themselves near the river in low-lying ground, which was 
on a level with the plain in front. They were thus less 
exposed to the British shrapnel, which they dreaded above 
all things, than they would have been if on high ground 
standing out clearly against the sky. It was also more 
difficult for the English general to ascertain their position, 
while at the same time they could pour in a far more 
effective iire than was possible from the steep eminences, 
at the foot of which there was almost always a dead angle. 
Lord Methuen's force, harassed by Boer detachments 



1899] MODDER RIVER ACTION. 83 

on its flanks^ resumed its advance on November 27th 
with the intention of crossing the Modder River on the 
following day. His patrols were certainly impeded by 
parties of the enemy ensconced on the south bank; 
these, by means of their continual fire, prevented 
the patrols from examining the valley of the stream, and 
they could only ascertain the presence of a Boer force 
in the station buildings on the far bank. When the 
general approached the river in the forenoon of November 
28th, he observed some hostile horsemen in movement 
near the railway station on the opposite bank, and ordered 
his artillery to take up a position from which to open 
fire against them. Starting with the assumption that the 
right bank of the river was occupied by a weak rear- 
guard, and that, in order to cover the investment of 
Kimberley, the Boers would only accept battle on the 
heights of Spytfontein, the British general decided to 
make a frontal attack. He believed that on the advance 
of a strong force the enemy's resistance would at once 
cease. This attack was to be carried out by the Brigade 
of Guards, which deployed about 2,200 yards from the 
river and advanced, covered by a thin line of skirmishers 
along its whole front. With the exception of the Boers 
at the railway station there was no sign of the enemy, 
when suddenly the Guards were surprised by a hot in- 
fantry fire at about 600 yards range; some of the Boer 
riflemen had ensconced themselves in bushes and behind 
mounds of earth on the left bank 1,600 yards in advance 
of their supposed position near the railway station. The 
attackers were stopped and firing was kept up by both 
sides for a long time. It was not imtil the afternoon 
that the British firing line, supported by its artillery, was 
able to reach the south bank of the river, which flows in 
a deep bed, and there entrench itself, while on the left 
flank, a detachment succeeded in crossing the river at 

G 2 



84 LORD METHUEirS OPERATIONS. [Ch. IX. 

7 p.m., when it also found shelter. But no attempts were 
made to reconnoitre from this direction during the night or 
to bring more troops across the stream at that point. As 
happened so often on other occasions, this success was 
apparently not reported ; Lord Methuen, at any rate, did 
not hear of it. But the Boer commander at once recognised 
the danger which threatened him; as he did not feel 
inclined to assume the offensive, and, as several of the 
Orange Free State Boers, weary of fighting, were return- 
ing to their homes, he ordered a retreat in the night, and 
this was carried out unobserved by the English. The 
latter first discovered what had happened on the follow- 
ing morning, when no shot was fired from the far bank 
in reply to the fire of the British batteries. A bridge 
.was quickly thrown and the division crossed the river, 
which was the last natural obstacle on the road 
to Kimberley. The construction of a new bridge was 
commenced near the site of that which had been de- 
stroyed, and it was available for use on December 7th. 
Heliographic communication was opened with Kimberley, 
!the commandant of which reported on December 4th that 
he had supplies for 40 days, and that he had made sorties 
on November 25th and 28th on hearing artillery fire to- 
wards the south. 

The three actions had cost the British 58 officers and 
90s men, and hostile detachments, hovering about the 
flanks, rendered it necessary to despatch strong parties 
to protect the Line of Communication.* Lord Methuen, 
therefore, decided to await the arrival of reinforcements 
and the completion of the new bridge before restmiing 
the offensive. 

• The " Scandinavian Corps," 1,000 men strong, with three g^ns, had 
moved from Jacobsdal against Methuen's rear, and destroyed the railwaj 
and telegraph at Graspan on December 7th. The lines of communication 
troops, consisting of two companies of the Northamptonshire regiment, 
defended themselves until reinforcements arrived. The damage was 
repaired in ten hours' time. 



1899.] PAUCITY OF MOUNTED TROOPS. 8$ 

So far the different battles had shown the great difficulty 
in the way of purely frontal attacks in a flat region. 
Nevertheless the British leaders still believed that a 
frontal attack, resolutely made, would carry the widely 
extended and weakly held positions of the enemy. The 
necessity of thorough reconnaissance both before and 
during a battle had been strikingly exemplified, and the 
paucity of mounted troops had, in this respect, been 
severely felt To enable Lord Methuen to deliver a 
decisive blow it would be necessary for him to outflank 
the enemy in such a manner as to render it more diffi- 
cult for him to escape by flight from an unfavourable 
position^ when a rapid pursuit must turn defeat into 
disaster. 

The Boers had been much shaken by the three suc- 
cessive actions ; * they required time to recover from their 
effects and to turn to account for future operations the 
experiences they had already gained. From a purely 
military point of view Lord Methuen would certainly have 
been well advised had he continued, regardless of the 
fatigue of his troops and the difficulties of supply, the 
offensive tactics which had been so successfully in- 
augurated. 

From our present knowledge of all the circumstances 
such a course would probably have been advantageous 
to the British. As the English general, however, was un- 
aware of the condition of his adversary, and as the 
situation at Kimberley permitted further delay, he thought 
that nothing would be lost by not resuming his advance 
until his communications should be fully secured, and his 
troops and horses, which were exhausted by marching 
and fighting in tropical heat, rested 



* Correspondence between Presidents Kruger and Steyn of November 
dTth, 1899. 



8fi [Ch. X. 



CHAPTER X. 

Operations of the Boers up to December ioth. 

The Boers commenced their retreat on the evening of 
November 28th, and, at a council of war which was held, 
the most varied opinions prevailed as to the future con- 
duct of the campaigrn. Whereas de la Rey was in favour 
of retiring towards Kimberley along the railway, Pieter 
Cronje carried his view at first, namely, to make for 
Jacobsdal, at which place the Boer ammunition dep6ts 
were situated, and to collect reinforcements there. Cronje, 
influenced by the results of the late actions, does not 
seem to have considered himself strong enough to stop 
the enemy's advance by directly barring his way; he 
wished to abandon the direct route and to threaten the 
British flank. Hence there vras nothing but a few weak 
parties to prevent the British from marching into Kim- 
berley. But, at Jacobsdal, de la Rey's wish to fight one 
more battle to the south of Kimberley, since the English 
were not pursuing from the Modder River, appears to 
have gained the day. Some Boer detachments crossed 
the stream on the afternoon of November 29th, and 
reached the heights of Spytfontein, about 12 miles 
south of Kimberley, by the morning of November 
30th with the intention of making fresh preparations 
to fight Curiously enough the Boer laagers were 
still from 5 to 10 miles to the east of the enemy's 
probable line of advance, and the ammunition dep6ts 
were left at Jacobsdal until December 3rd, when, in con- 



1899] STEVN'S ENERGY. 87 

sequence of President Steyn's exhortations, they were 
removed further towards the north. He had betaken him- 
self to the laager south of Kimberley in order to infuse 
fresh spirit into the depressed Free Staters. It was due 
to him that reinforcements arrived from all sides to take 
part in the intended action, and that even the force in- 
vesting Mafeking was temporarily weakened, with the 
result that P. Cronje had from 8,000 to 9,000 men and 
about 12 guns at his disposal. Preparations were at 
once begun to put the position in a state of defence, 
Kaffirs being employed for this purpose. Closer examina- 
tion, however, revealed the fact that the position was 
deficient in those advantages which had favoured the 
defence in the earlier battles. De la Rey pointed out 
that the heights of Magersfontein in front of it would 
favour the attacker by affording him commanding artillery 
positions, which would greatly facilitate a frontal attack. 
It was better to occupy the heights of Magersfontein 
themselves, as the British would then be compelled to 
advance across the open country where there were no 
favourable situations for their guns. Cronje, at first, paid 
no heed to de la Rey's representations, but, as President 
Steyn and the Council of War both strongly supported 
them, Cronje eventually yielded against his own wish. 
The position in question* was situated on both sides of 
the railway, on a level with Merton Siding; it extended 
westwards to a distance of nearly three miles as far as 
Langeberg farm, and ended, for the time being, to the 
east of the line at Magersfontein Hill, which rose abruptly 
from the plain and was visible for miles around. Whether 
the attackers advanced to the west of the hill along the 
railway, or to the east of it along the Modder River 
Station — ^Kimberley Road, they would be equally exposed 
to fire from this positioa 

• Map 7. 



88 BOER OPERATIONS TO DEC. loth. [Ch. X. 

De la Rey had, doubtless, already perceived the im- 
portance of a certain low ridge which extended in the 
form of an arc from Magersfontein Hill towards the 
Modder River, and whence it was possible to bring ^n 
effective flanking fire to bear on a frontal advance of the 
enemy. A wire fence denoted the boundary between 
the Orange Free State and Griqualand West, and was 
situated more or less parallel to the ridge in question. 
Another wire fence extended from a point on the rail- 
way, about 2,800 yards north of Merton Siding, towards 
its southern extremity, while to the west of it both fences 
crossed one another in front of the proposed position. 

The ground rises gently from the river towards the 
north, and numerous low eminences and ant hills, which 
were about 3 feet high, afforded but little cover. A 
small hill, situated between the Boer position and the river^ 
caught the eye on the British side, and Lord Methuen 
intended to station himself there during the forthcoming 
battle. To the north of this eminence, known as " Head- 
quarter Hill," there was a long strip of bush, about 50 
yards wide, situated some 1,600 yards from the Boer 
position; midway between this strip and the Boers there 
was another and narrower one of thorny mimosa bush 
to the west of the road leading from Modder River Statioa 
to Kimberley. 

The Boers moved forward to the heights of Magers- 
fontein on December 4th, and at once began to construct 
shelter trenches. The value of the experience gained by 
de la Rey at Modder River was now apparent. In addi- 
tion to some rifle pits and gun epaulments the actual 
fighting positions were from 150 to 200 yards in front 
of these,* at the foot of the hills, in order to sweep the 
ground in front and, at the same time, protect the men 
as much as possible from the fire of the British. Just as» 

* See the photographs. 



1899] MAGERSFONTEIN POSITION. 89 

at Modder River Station on November 28th| some mounted 
Boers had attracted the attention of the English and 
caused them to overlook the positions occupied in front, 
so also, on this occasion, apparently by Cronje's orders, 
were the upper shelter trenches held by Boers, who were 
to keep the reconnoitring patrols of the English at a 
distance by means of their Martini-Henry rifles, with 
which black powder was used 

Instead of being in one continuous line the shelter 
trenches were placed in groups to suit the conformation 
of the ground, and so as to be able mutually to flank one 
another. Their profile was such that their occupants were 
protected to the utmost possible extent against shrapnel 
Eire. The nature of the soil permitted the interior and 
exterior slopes to be nearly perpendicular, and, by hollow- 
ing out the former, still better cover was obtained. The 
parapets were kept as low as possible and covered with 
brushwood and stones in places, so that the trenches were 
only visible a very short distance away. 

By December 8th the Boers had occupied a line six 
miles long with groups of riflemea Their right wing 
was thrown well back and extended from Langeberg Farm 
to the railway north of Merton Siding ; then came a gap^ 
nearly two miles in leng^ ; it was watched only by some 
isolated parties, and reached to the fortifications on 
Magersfontein Hill, which were about 4,000 yards in 
extent Nothing was done to fortify the left wing be- 
tween the Modder River Station — Kimberley Road, and 
the river until December loth. This section of the posi- 
tion was so long that not much cover had been provided 
up to the morning of December nth, and, as the right 
wing was then still further extended, the whole position 
was nearly 12 miles in length, so that only portions of 
it could be held. 

The British outposts had observed the alterations in 



90 BOER OPERATIONS TO DEC. loth. [Ch. X. 

the dispositions of the enemyi and also the commence- 
ment of extensive field works at Magersfontein. Cavalry 
patrols had advanced towards the Boer position, but had 
not gathered any exact information as to how it was 
occupied, nor do they seem even to have ascertained the 
extent of the enemy's right wing. The estimated strength 
of the Boers varied between 5,000 and 18,000 men, and 
the reports that the patrols had been fired at from this 
or from that kopje were not of a nature to re-assure the 
British general In order to obtain more accurate in- 
formation and to startle the Boers out of their fancied 
security it would have been absolutely indispensable to 
make a reconnaissance in force, but Lord Methuen thought 
he could still afford to wait. He called up reinforcements^ 
increased his supplies of food and ammunition, and re- 
solved to delay his further advance until the last available 
battalion of infantry should have arrived 

In addition to his orig^al force and Rimington's Guides, 
the latter now increased to 400 men. Lord Methuen had 
at his disposal the Highland Brigade of the second divi- 
sion, a company of mounted infantry, the 12th Lancers, 
G Battery Royal Horse Artillery, a howitzer battery of 
4 guns, a 47-inch naval gun, and a balloon detachment 
The troops on the Lines of Communication consisted of 
one battalion from each of the Cornwall and Shropshire 
Light Infantry Regiments on the Orange River; at 
Belmont and at Enslin respectively there was a battalion 
of the Canadian and of the Australian contingents. 
* Reinforcements arrived on December loth in the shape 
of the 1st Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders,* which 
had been previously allotted to General Gatacre, and 
had disembarked at East London on December 3rd, but 
was then placed under Lord Methuen's orders. 

* According to the Order of Battle it formed part of the Lines of 
Communication troops. 



1899] METHUElfS FORCE. 9 1 

In consequence of this re-distribution of the British 
army, Lord Methuen's force consisted of 12^ battalions^ 
about 5 companies of mounted infantry, which were, how- 
ever, comprised in the establishments of their respective 
battalions, 400 men of Rimin^^on's Guides, 6 squadrons, 
4 6-gim batteries, I 4-gim howitzer battery, a naval 
brigade, 350 strong in spite of its former losses, with 4 
naval 12 prs., and i naval 4-7-inch gun^ 2 companies of 
engineers, and a balloon detachment* 

The fighting strength of this force was 10,200 rifles^ 
800 sabres, and 33 gims. 

In order to relieve Kimberley, which was the task 
imposed upon him, the difficulty of supply compelled Lord 
Methuen to remain within reach of the railway. Scarcity 
of water forbade an advance to the west of the Une, and 
the idea of making a dash at the enemy's ammunition 
stores at Jacobsdal was abandoned, as this movement 
would have necessitated again crossing the Modder River 
in front of the Boers. The plan would have been ad- 
vantageous had it been carried out during the period 
wasted on the Modder River, whereas now it would 
merely have been a blow in the air, productive of delay, 
especially after the enemy had evacuated JacobsdaL 
Lord Methuen, therefore, finally resolved to make a direct 
frontal attack on the strongly posted enemy in front of 
him. 

This could, however, only succeed if it should partake 
of the nature of a surprise by crossing the open plain, 
which afforded a clear field of fire to the Boers, under 
cover of darkness, before they should have time to arrive 
from their more distant laagers and occupy the position. 

On December 9th the 47-inch naval gim was brought 
into action, escorted by the naval brigade, to the west 

* Appendix III. 



92 BOER OPERATIONS TO DEC. loth. [Ch.X. 

of a ganger's hut and opened fire at a range of 6,300 yards 
against the heights of Magersfontein. An attempt made 
by the cavahy to cross the Modder River at Voetpad's 
Drift and Moss Drift was repulsed by the fire of strong 
hostile detachments, but, instead of making a longer cir- 
cuit, or of forcing a passage with the help of the ninth 
infantry brigade, which was in readiness on the right 
bank, the cavalry contented itself with ascertaining the 
fact that the Boers had occupied the opposite bank with 
riflemen. Lord Methuen, after the heavy gun had fired 
about 20 lyddite shells, ordered the fire to cease, as the 
enemy at Magersfontein had neither shown any troops 
nor replied with his own guns. 

It was then decided to make a reconnaissance on a lai^r 
scale on December loth, so that infantry might approach 
the Boers under cover of artillery fire. The ist Battalion 
of the Northumberland Fusihers and the 2nd Battalion 
of the Northamptonshire Regiment, both of which formed 
part of the ninth infantry brigade, were pushed forward, 
under command of their brigadier, on both sides of the 
railway beyond the ganger's hut The Highland brigade 
moved at 3.30 p.m. on to Headquarter Hill, where it 
formed for attack, the battalion of the Black Watch ad- 
vancing in widely extended lines of skirmishers to within 
about 1,600 yards of the enemy, who, however, in no 
way molested these movements. Some of the mounted 
infantry were occupying ground on the right wing, a few 
hundred yards in advance of the Highlanders, while 
some squadrons accompanied the Black Watch, but they 
also failed to draw the Boer fire. Here and there isolated 
shots were, it is true, fired at advancing patrols, but the 
enemy was careful not to offer a large target or to show 
a gun. Under cover of this weak infantry demonstration, 
which was incapable of frightening the Boers into the 
belief that a serious attack was imminent, the heavy naval 



i 


V* ' 






Id 


i^qKr: . ^ 



1899] BOERS EXPECT ATTACK. 93 

gun again took up its position of the day before, the 
howitzer battery came into action to the west of Head- 
quarter Hill and nearly 4,CX)0 yards from Magersfontein 
Hill, and the three field batteries took up position some 
1.300 yards nearer to the enemy. The remaining naval 
gims and the horse artillery battery were not made use 
of. 

When the batteries reported at 4,30 p.m. that they were 
ready, the infantry in front was withdrawn, and there 
was then obviously no necessity, even had it ever existed, 
for the Boers to occupy their shelter trenches. The 
British g^ns directed their fire against Magersfontein Hill, 
which was plainly visible and was soon enveloped in 
thick clouds of smoke, while the fragments of rock, 
scattered high into the air by the lyddite shells, confirmed 
Lord Methuen in his belief that no human being could 
remain on the hill, and that the enemy must, in any case, 
be greatly shaken. As a matter of fact the impression 
made upon the Boers was exceedingly trifling, as the 
British guns had made excellent practice against the 
summits of the kopjes, but had only fired incidentally at 
the shelter trenches, which lay at their foot; the Boers 
are said to have lost only three men. Lord Methuen 
ordered the "Cease Fire" to be sounded at 6.30 p.nL; 
the Highland Brigade, the artillery, and the cavalry 
bivouacked on Headquarter Hill, the 2nd BattaUon of 
the Seaforth Highlanders furnishing the outposts, but no 
infantry reconnoitring parties appear to have been sent 
out 

After this bombardment it was evident to the Boers 
that an attack was imminent; the firing had scarcely 
ceased when Cronje, who had been in the laager at 
Brown's Drift, hastened to Magersfontein in order to issue 
the necessary orders for the impending battle. Standing 
on the kopjes, which were either strewn with splinters 



94 BOER OPERATIONS TO DEC. loth. [Ch.X. 

and shrapnel bullets or had been thoroughly searched by 
the lyddite projectiles, he could see plainly the disposi- 
tions of his adversary ; infantry, artillery, and cavalry lay 
before him in bivouac behind Headquarter Hill, infantry 
was on both sides of the railway to the north of the 
ganger's hut, and, as dusk set in, he perceived a column 
of infantry crossing the Modder River. There was no 
longer any room for doubt; Cronje at once issued the 
necessary instructions, and Major Albrecht, who was at 
Jacobsdal with the Jacobsdal and Fauresmith Commandos 
and a Krupp gim, was ordered to move against the British 
camp on the left bank of the Modder River on the follow- 
ing morning. 

The Boers seem to have occupied their position early 
on the morning of December nth much in the following 
manner: On the right were about 2,000 men of the 
Klerksdorp Commando and part of the Potchefstroom 
Commando under the orders of Cronje's brother; the 
Bloemfontein and Hopstad levies, with the main body 
of the Potchefstroom Commando, 2,500 men in all, occu- 
pied the trenches at the foot of Magersfontein HilL The 
Ladybrand, Ficksburg, Senekal, Heilbronn, Kroonstad, 
Lichtenberg, Wolmaranstad, and Bloemhof Commandos, 
4«ooo strong, of whom, however, only half took part in 
the battle, formed the left wing under de la Rey. There 
was a gap about 1,100 yards wide between the centre 
and the left, and in it was posted the Scandinavian Corps, 
which was still 50 or 60 men strong. North of the Modder 
River there were 10 guns, 5 of them pom-poms, available, 
and, of these, 2 pom-poms were placed on Magersfontein 
Hill, 5 field guns were divided between as many favourable 
points, and 3 pom-poms were allotted to the left flank. 

Cronje spent the short interval, which remained after 
he had issued his instructions, in bivouac with his small 
Staff on Magersfontein Hill, and about i a.m. he went 



y 




1899] BRITISH PLAN OF ATTACK. 95 

towards the left wing to make certain once more that 
his orders had been executed. But he lost his way in 
the darkness and wandered about until, at 4 a.m., just 
at daybreak, he found himself between Magersfontein 
Hill and the road to Kimberley. 

Owing to his very scanty knowledge concerning the 
strength and position of the enemy, and believing also 
that the short-lived bombardment had sufficiently shaken 
him, Lord Methuen resolved to attack the Boer centre 
early on the morning of December nth. He had no 
information whatever as to the extent of the enemy's 
flanks, but, while the artillery had been firing, he explained 
his plans to his subordinates on Headquarter Hill. The 
actual attack was to be carried out by the Highland 
Brigade, under General Wauchope. The brigade was to 
leave its bivouac at 12.30 a.m., and, arriving in front of 
the Boer position at daybreak, was to advance in widely 
extended order and carry it by storm. The Guards were 
to form the immediate reserve and were to march in the 
darkness to the Highland bivouac ground, which, how- 
ever, was about 4,000 yards distant from the probable 
scene of action. The cavalry and mounted infantry were 
to move off at day-break and cover the right flank of the 
Highland advance; as regards the artillery it was to be 
in the positions occupied on the previous day and ready 
for action at the same hour. Lord Methuen intended 
to conduct the action from Headquarter Hill, where the 
balloon detachment was also to be stationed The ninth 
brigade, under Major-General Pole-Carew, and the ist 
Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders, which only arrived 
by train on the morning of the battle, were to form the 
general reserve. Of these four and a-half battalions^ 
however, the ist Northtmiberland Fusiliers and the 
1st Northamptonshire had ahready been pushed forward 
along the railway under Pole-Carew in order to draw the 



96 BOER OPERATIONS TO DEC. loth. [Ch.X. 

attention of the Boers, but they were not to become 
seriously engaged The 2nd BattaUon of the Yorkshire 
Light Infantry held the passage at Voetpad's Drift, and 
the half battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 
together with the naval brigade, remained as baggage 
escort at Modder River Station on the right bank. Lord 
Methuen's reserve, therefore, consisted merely of a single 
battalion and two companies of engineers, for the Guards 
had been told off for the immediate support of General 
Wauchope. It had been forbidden to light camp fires 
during the night in order not to betray to the enemy the 
intended assembly of troops on the right bank of the 
Modder River, and the British had, therefore, to go into 
an action, the duration of which it was impossible to fore- 
tell, with uncooked rations and without having partaken 
of a hot meal 



1 8990 97 



CHAPTER XL 
The Battle of Magersfontein.* 

At 12.30 a.ia on December nth the Scottish battalions, 
covered by the outposts of the 2nd Battalion of the Sea- 
forth Highlanders, were ready to advance, and their officers 
having laid aside the national claymore were armed with 
rifles. General Wauchope intended to lead his brigade, 
guided by Major Benson, R.A., who had already fixed the 
bearing of the line of advance during daylight, in quarter- 
column close up to the south-eastern extremity of Magers- 
fontein Hill, to deploy there and to assault at daybreak. 
The quarter-column formation in which the battalions 
marched, with six paces interval between companies, is a 
decidedly awkward one; the Black Watch, which was 
acquainted with the ground from the previous day, led, 
followed by the Seaforth Highlanders, who were to assemble 
after the former should have passed through the outpost 
line ; then came the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and, 
lastly, the Highland Light Infantry. In order that the 
column should retain its formation an order had been 
issued directing the non-commissioned officers acting as 
left " guides " to be connected with cords, but it was only 
carried out by two of the battalions. If the distances had 
been accurately kept, the brigade would have had a depth 
of about 330 yards and a front of 43 yards. No officers 
were mounted and the machine guns were apparently 
drawn by hand. The brigadier together with his aide- 
de-camp, his orderly officer, and Major Benson, who was 
accompanied also by two men who knew the ground, 
were on the left flank of the leading company of the 
Black Watch. 

* Map 7 and Appendix III. 

H 



98 



THE BATTLE OF MAGERSFONTEIN. [Ch. XL 



Proposed formation of the Highland Brigade on the 

morning of December nth, 1899. 



800 yards. 



800 yards. 



8o0 3rards. 



230 yards. 



□ □□□an 



D 



230 yards. 



n 






Seaforth. 


Black Watch. Argyll & Sutherland H 
230 yards. 












Highlai 

4 


id Light 

1 43 yds. 


Infantry. 

> 




A 

• 

1 

V 




Black Watch. 


In mass of quarter 




Seaforths. 


column. 




Argyll and Sutherland H. 






Highland Light Infantry. 



Wauchope's orders for the attack were as follows : The 
Black Watch was to halt close in front of the enemy's 
position; the second battalion was to form on its left 
and the third to the right of it^ while the Highland Light 



1899.] HIGHLANDERS ADVANCE. 99 

Infantry was to follow in reserve. Each of the battalions 
in the first line was to extend two companies with five 
paces interval between each man, two more companies 
were to follow as supports to their corresponding com- 
panies in the firing line, and four companies in each 
battalion was to form the battalion reserve. After form- 
ing for attack the men composing the firing line were to 
lie down, fix bayonets, and storm the position at day- 
break. It would have required at least a quarter of an 
hour to complete these preparations, and the brig^e 
would have had a front of some 2,400 yards> while the 
leading companies would have had to advance not less 
than 650 yards, for the brigade to acquire the appointed 
depth. 

It was quite dark when the brigade moved off at 
12.30 a.m., and the rain, which had been falling con- 
tinuously since the afternoon, was coming down more 
heavily than ever, so that, while the difficulty in recog- 
nising objects had been increased, the transmission of 
sound was considerably deadened. Two rifle shots, care- 
lessly fired as the brigade was moving off, could scarcely 
have been heard by the enemy, and a violent thunder- 
storm, which burst soon after i a.m., rendered the chance 
of surprising the enemy still more favourable. Although 
these conditions tended to conceal the movement, the 
strain on the men was, on the other hand, considerably 
increased owing to the ground being soaked by the rain. 
It was also necessary to pass through some mimosa scrub, 
about a yard in height, and this was very inconvenient 
for the leading battalicms, clothed as they were in kilts. 
The distance of two and a-half miles, which separated 
the brigade from the Boers, could have been traversed 
in an hour and a-half, but, as soon as the outpost line 
had been crossed, a halt was necessary in order to give 
the Seaforths time to assemble and to take their place 

H 2 



lOO THE BATTLE OF MAGERSFONTEIN. [Ch. XI. 

in the column, after which the march was continued in 
a direction more or less parallel to the Kimberley road. 
Fresh halts, however, had to be made to enable the 
brigade to keep together. The rain ceased towards three 
o'clock, and Major Benson twice proposed to General 
Wauchope to halt and deploy. But the latter refused, 
partly because he thought he was considerably further 
away from the enemy than did his guide, and partly 
because it would have been impossible to advance any 
distance in proper order if the brigade were once deployed. 
At last he gave the order to form for attack about 
345 a.m., when day had begun to break and the outlines 
of Magersfontein Hill were visible. Just at that moment, 
however, the leading companies came upon some prickly 
undergrowth, which could not, apparently, be turned 
without the direction of the march being lost Wauchope, 
therefore, cancelled his order so as first to get the entire 
brigade through the obstacle, but, as it was rapidly be- 
coming light, he may have begun to doubt whether it 
was possible to deploy unobserved in the dawn, and he, 
consequently, issued instructions to form for attack before 
the two rear battalions had quite got through the bush. 
This caused delay, nor does the movement of the Sea- 
forth Highlanders towards the left appear to have been 
carried out without noise. 

The two leading companies of the Black Watch were 
^en about a quarter of a mile from the enemy's trenches 
and about 550 yards from his supposed position. They 
formed for attack, but had scarcely advanced a hundred 
yards when a hot fire was poured into them. It seemed 
to come at first from a narrow front, and the Scots- 
men did not immediately suffer loss as most of the 
projectiles passed over their heads; but the brigade, 
huddled together in a small space, was surprised by the 
enemy, and its deployment was rendered difficult The 



1899.] THE HEROIC WAUCHOPE. lOI 

men of the centre company of the Black Watch pressed 
forward, lay down and fixed bayonets, and some of those 
belonging to the battalions in rear also pushed to the 
front in order to get out of the deep column, which had 
by this time become an unmanageable mass. The con- 
fusion became still greater when some of the Seaforths, 
ostensibly by order of their commanding officer, endea- 
voured to place themselves on the right of the Black 
Watch. Under such circumstances to advance was the 
only thing to be done; the signal to charge, the sound 
of the national bag-pipes could alone avert a panic. 

Wauchope did not at once discover this solution ; a 
hero in the truest sense of the word, he walked quietly 
up to the extended companies of the Black Watch, in 
order to learn the real distance from the Boer trenches, 
and, no doubt, should it prove to be small, to lead his 
troops to the charge. He stood erect among his men and, 
as the enemy's fire was soon prolonged towards the Kim- 
berley Road, he ordered his orderly officer to tell the 
remaining companies of that battalion to extend the line 
in that direction. The commanding officer of the bat- 
talion thereupon led forward a confused heap of Black 
Watch, Seaforths and Argylls towards the right 

Three or four minutes had, perhaps, elapsed since the 
firing had commenced, and the hour was about four 
o'clock. At close range it was possible for the Boers to 
distinguish individual soldiers, and the brigade column, 
from which shots were now being discharged, formed 
a clear target The enemy's fire increased in intensity, 
and General Wauchope appears to have then given 
the order to charge. A motley heap, consisting of 
the stoutest-hearted men of the leading battalions, 
rushed forward. How close they got to the enemy 
cannot be stated, but General Wauchope, his orderly 
officer, and the officer commanding the leading bat- 



102 THE BATTLE OF MAGERSFONTEIN. [Ch. XL 

talion were only 150 yards from the Boer trenches 
when they felL No one can cast a stone at the brave 
men, who, in clumsy formation, were helplessly sacrificed 
at point-blank range to mag^azine fire, and were then 
partly dashed back in disorder. It is difficult to form 
an adequate picture of the battle from the various con- 
flicting accounts; the Seaforth Highlanders, who were 
still engaged in carrying out their flank movement, seem 
to have come off best; the Boer fire did not hit them 
at first, and they were able to prolong the firing line to 
the right and left. 

On tHfe right, portions of the Highland Brigade came 
across the remnant of the Scandinavian Corps, and a 
fierce struggle ensued, which terminated in favour of the 
British, 43 of the Scandinavians being, according to Boer 
accounts, either killed or wounded. This made a gap in 
the enem/s line, and groups of 3 or 4, or 20 or 30, and 
even of a 100 men, led by keen subalterns and brave 
and energetic non-commissioned officers, forced their way 
into it It was about 4.20 a.m, and the day was not 
yet hopelessly lost. The howitzer battery came into 
action to the west of Headquarter Hill and opened fire 
at 3,500 yards range, and two field batteries advanced 
rapidly to within 2,200 yards of the trenches. Their fire 
at once had marked effect, and the Highlanders cheered 
the first rounds of the British shrapnel ; but some of the 
groups on the right wing were obliged to stop their 
advance so as not to be hit by their own bullets. It was 
only on the extreme right flank which was wheeling 
round, that about a hundred men were able to advance 
almost on to the rear of the Magersfontein position. 
Curiously enough, they came there upon Cronje, who, 
in the course of his midnight wanderings, had found him- 
self to the north of the position with a small Staff and, 
when the firing commenced, he was hurrying to Magers- 



1899] ISOLATED BRITISH ATTACKS. 103 

fontein HilL The further advance of this detachment 
was checked by Cronje's companions, and, as British 
shrapnel were bursting near it, while Boers were moving 
against its flank and rear, its fate was sealed. The 30 
survivors had to lay down their arms. 

The British fighting line, which extended for about 
3,300 yards, was within from 150 to 650 yards of the 
trenches, and the officers had collected the greater part 
of the scattered men and led them forward ag^in, chiefly 
on the right, so as to oppose the enemy's flanking fire, 
which was becoming more and more effective there. A 
Maxim gun on the extreme left wing was able tc^fire with 
good effect for about half-an-hour, tmtil the men of the 
detachment were shot down one after the other. It is in a 
high degree worthy of recognition that, in the English firing 
line, attempts were made over and over again to charge 
the Boer position, but since there was no sort of unity 
of leadership, and as no supports were following, it was 
easy for the Boers to repel these isolated attacks. The 
relative numbers on both sides deserve attention; the 
Highland Brigade had gone into action about 3,000 
strong, and, after allowing for its probable losses and 
for the men who were scattered about, it still had about 
2,200 rifles, and it is estimated that a similar force of 
Boers were opposed to them. The wet night had been 
succeeded by a broiling hot day, and it could only be 
a question of time as to how long the men would be 
able to hold their ground. The best troops, if unsup- 
ported, must, under such circumstances, and after exertions 
such as these had undergone, give way. The artillery 
rendered valuable aid to the Highlanders, and the moral 
effect of the shrapnel bursting close to the trenches was 
very gpreat General Babington seized this opportimity 
to advance with his cavalry, but the wire fencing and, 
very soon afterwards, enfilade fire from an easterly 



I04 THE BATTLE OF MAGERSFONTEIN. [Ch. XI, 

direction seem to have withheld him from making an 
attack, of which the prospects of success were by no 
means unfavourable. He ordered the Qth Lancers to 
dismount and advance with their machine gun, while he 
himself took up later a position with the dismounted I2th 
Lancers and the battery of horse artillery, whence he 
could oppose the flanking movement by which the High- 
landers were threatened. The horse artillery battery 
eventually advanced to within less than a thousand yards 
of the enemy. 

The Boer artillery had, so far, not fired a shot Colonel 
Hall, the British Brigade Division Commander, must have 
conjectured that the adversary's guns were in readiness 
under cover, and as an advance of the batteries in order to 
support the Highlanders was desirable on moral grounds, 
he decided to change positioa The 1 8th Field Battery 
received orders to advance shortly after 6 o'clock, and 
it unlimbered to the west of the Kimberley road at 1,400 
yards range from the trenches ; at 7 o'clock it was followed 
by the 62nd Battery while, to the right of the latter and 
to the east of the road to Kimberley, the 75th Battery 
came into action 1,300 yards from the enemy. It was 
owing to them that the Boer flanking fire became con- 
siderably weaker. 

The state of affairs on the right wing was still serious, 
yet by no means hopeless. But while the pressure there 
on the Highland Brigade had been considerably lessened 
owing to the initiative of two officers, there was no such sup- 
port on the British left Since the afternoon of December 
loth. General Pole-Carew, in accordance with the divi- 
sional orders, was on the railway with two battalions and 
Rimington's Guides with instructions to attract the 
attention of the Boers and to cover the Modder River 
bridge. These orders were repeated to him early on 
December nth before the battle commenced and were 



1899] HIGHLAND ATTACK STOPPED. 10$ 

supplemented with directions not to advance too far^ but 
constantly to bear in mind the safety of the camp. The 
two battalions, of which only a few men were extended 
in the firing line, had some trifling skirmishing at about 
ifioo yards range, but no attempt was made to drive back 
the enemy, who was visibly diminishing his strength on 
this wing, although the effect of an infantry advance there 
might have been very great. Just in front of the British 
was a small eminence whence it would have been possible 
to enfilade the enemy, but, towards noon, when the oppor- 
tunity of seizing it had passed, there came from Methuen 
a fresh order not to advance in order that his own right 
might, if necessary, be reinforced 

Lord Methuen watched the further course of the fight 
from Headquarter Hill. The Highland Brigade had come 
to a stand-still, and the firing on both sides had slackened 
considerably. The British commander, however, being 
about 4,500 yards away from the fighting line, was utterly 
ignorant of the state of the battalions composing it ; all he 
could see was that the attack of the Highlanders had not 
been pushed home. He sent an order, before 6 a.m., to 
the senior field officer of the brigade directing him to 
maintain his position throughout the day, and the Guards 
Brigade, which had moved off at i a.m. and formed up 
at the Highland bivouac, received instructions to be ready 
to cover the right flank of the Highlanders, or to protect, 
in case of necessity, their retreat or that of the entire 
division. The idea that an attack might turn the tide 
of battle seems to have vanished from the minds of the 
divisional Staff, although more than half the force had 
not yet been in action. The cavalry advance had caused 
the firing on the right to become hotter, but this circum- 
stance only induced Methuen to order the Guards to move 
forward in an easterly direction so as to meet the turning 
movement by means of a kind of defensive flank. 



Io6 THE BATTLE OF MAGERSFONTEIN. [Ch. XL 

The battalion of Scots Guards remained on Headquarter 
Hill, while the two battalions of the Coldstreams, followed 
by that of the Grenadiers, advanced against the heights 
occupied by the Boers, and came into action at about 
i,ooo yards from the enemy between the dismounted 
men of the gth Lancers and the battery of horse artillery. 
The Coldstreams had four companies extended in the firing 
line, while the remainder of their two battalions followed 
in rear, and the Grenadiers came last of all. By degprees 
all the troops of the first line, with the exception of three 
companies of the 2nd Battalion of the Coldstreams, were 
brought up to reinforce the firing line, so that the one 
battalion of Grenadier Guards formed the sole reserve in 
this part of the battle-field. The brigadier reported that 
the opposite heights were strongly held, and endeavours 
on the part of the gth Lancers to push forward along the 
river had failed. On the left the firing line of the Guards 
advanced across the open grotmd still further in that 
direction in order to be able to render more effective 
support to the Highlanders, and the fact that this move- 
ment succeeded ought to have demonstrated that the 
heights were only weakly held by the enemy. It is 
probable that, in this part of the field, the strength of 
the forces on either side was, for the time being, equal 
The reports of the Boers leave no room whatever for 
doubting that a resolute attack, properly supported from 
the river, would have succeeded, and, imtil reinforce- 
ments arrived, it required all the energy of the Boer 
leaders to keep their men in the half -completed trenches. 
Cronje, however, then brought up from the right wing 
a strong detachment of the Potchefstroom Commando to 
the threatened spot, while men also came hurrying up 
from their laagers, so that the original defenders were 
being continually reinforced. 

Dismounted men of the cavalry and mounted infantry 



1899.] ADVANCE OF THE GORDONS, 10/ 

were in action on the right of the Guards, and the bat- 
talion of the Yorkshire Light Infantry was at Voetpad's 
Drift still further to the right of the first-named. The 
commanding officer of this battalion left three com- 
panies to cover the ford, and, with the remaining five, 
prolonged the right wing of the Guards ; they did not, how- 
ever, succeed in driving back a hostile detachment, which 
was near a house at Moss Drift, and, when Major Albrechfs 
force from the right bank also struck in, the commanding 
officer contented himself with holding the ground already 
won. These five companies on the extreme right rendered 
it possible to withdraw two dismounted squadrons and a 
machine gun from the firing line, and to put them again 
into the fight on the right of the Highlanders and close 
to the battery of horse artillery. 

But the effect of this small reinforcement was trifling; 
the fire of the Highlanders became weaker and weaker, 
and every attempt on the part of a man to raise him- 
self was met with a hot fire ; even if nobody was hit, this 
had a very great moral force and increased the feeling of 
insecurity. It was by moral and not by physical means 
that the Boers had asserted their superiority, and that the 
actual effect of their fire was really inconsiderable is shown 
by the /sth Field Battery having been able apparently to 
move towards its flank until within about 500 yards of the 
British guns posted to the west of the road to Kimberley. 

The howitzer battery advanced, about 1 1 a.m, to within 
2,400 yards of the enemy, and opened fire on a laager, 
visible to the west of Magersfontein Hill, and on the 
horses behind the latter, the captive balloon on Head- 
quarter Hill having ascertained their position. Lord 
Methuen then ordered the Gordon Highlanders to rein- 
force, with six companies, the Highland line, which was get- 
ting thinner and thinner, while the remaining two companies 
remained behind to protect the baggage and transport 



I08 THE BATTLE OF MAGERSFONTEIN. [Ch. XI. 

Four companies advanced by long rushes in widely 
extended order across the plain, the other two companies 
following in support, also in open order; after a short 
struggle the battalion succeeded in carrying a portion of 
the Highland line again to the front But a hot fire from 
the trenches repulsed this isolated attack, which had been 
imdertaken without sufficient fire preparation, when still 
nearly 400 yards away, and a weak fire only was then 
kept up by both Boers and British. Towards 1.30 p.m., 
however, a fresh party of the enemy succeeded in getting 
on to the right flank of the Highlanders* unobserved by 
the Guards* left The efforts of the officer commanding 
the Highland Brigade to get into touch with the latter 
failed, and, as there were no formed bodies of men in 
rear of the right wing, he decided to withdraw it towards 
the 7Sth Battery, but, the instant that the Scotsmen 
afforded a larger target, the Boer fire became hotter. The 
centre and left of the brigade also retired, and it appears to 
have been assumed there that the idea was to retreat from 
a hopeless situation in which the troops, after the exertions 
of the night march, had been placed for ten long hours 
in broiling heat without food or water. 

The Highland Brigade retired slowly at first, and its 
losses do not appear to have been very heavy, f so that 
the officers endeavoured to disentangle the units, which 
were mixed up together, and to collect them. Scattered 
groups, which had ventured too far ahead, remained where 
they were, under such cover as there was available, until 
darkness set in. Lord Methuen vainly endeavoured to 
stop the retirement by sending forward the Scots Guards, 
but, just as the Highlanders were on the point of falling 

• Probably near the spot where the 75th battery had stood. 

t According to the testimony of eye-witnesses, the losses during this 
retreat were greater than when the brigade was surprised. The entire 
brigade, however, only lost 47 officers and 728 men in killed, wounded and 
missing during the tweWe hours' fight. 



18990 HIGHLANDERS DISORGANISED. 109 

in, the Boer guns opened fire. A well aimed shrapnel 
burst close to a body of men^ who had been, almost at 
that instant, collected^ and the sudden outbreak of artillery 
fire, although its material effect was small, destroyed all 
semblance of order, and the brigade streamed away, com- 
pletely disorganised, to the rear of Headquarter Hill, where 
it was possible again to assemble it. The Gordon High- 
landers alone were not panic-stricken, and order had been 
restored among them when near the batteries, to which 
they now acted as escort 

With this retreat of the Highland Brigade the battle 
also died away on the other parts of the field, and the 
guns and cavalry were withdrawn at dusk. The Guards' 
Brigade, with the Scots Guards on the left flank, remained 
near the enemy, and their brigadier endeavoured to 
persuade Lord Methuen to hold his ground on December 
1 2th in the hope that the Boers would then retire. But 
Lord Methuen resolved on the representation of the officer 
commanding the artillery, who drew his attention to the 
complete lack of anmiunition — G Battery alone had fired 
1,153 rounds,* — to retreat across the Modder River, 
General Colvile and the Chief of the Staff alone re- 
monstrating against this decision. By tacit agreement 
neither side molested the other during the afternoon in 
burying the dead and collecting the wounded. 

Towards noon the battle-field had been evacuated, and 
it was possible to commence the retreat This was carried 
out without difficulty, for, although the Boer guns at once 
opened fire, no attempt at pursuit was made. The 
retreating force was headed by the Highland Brigade and 
the battalions of the ninth brigade on the left wing, to- 
gether with the 4'7-inch naval gun. These were followed 
by the field artillery and the Gordons, by the company 

* A battery carried 876 rounds. 



no THE BATTLE OF MAGERSFONTEIN. [Ch. XL 

of engineers with the balloon detachment, and then came 
the three battalions of the Guards. At Headquarter Hill 
the howitzer battery took its place in the column, havix^ 
previously fired one last salvo of lyddite sheik against the 
heights of Magersfontein. The motmted troops, together 
with G Battery Royal Horse Artillery and the Grenadiers, 
formed the rear-guard, which arrived in camp at 4 p.nL 
The baggage, ammunition columns, and train had been 
already sent off in the night of December nth- 12th to 
Modder River Station. 

Lord Methuen's division had gone into action with 11 
out of its 13 battalions, but only 7 of them, numbering, 
perhaps, inclusive of the mounted troops, 7)300 rifles, 
had been seriously engaged. The total loss of the 
division amounted to 23 ofiicers and 149 men killed, 45 
ofiicers and 646 men wounded, and 108 men missing, 
a total of 68 officers and 903 men,* or, in other words, 
about 7 per cent of the total strength, or 13 per cent 
of the force actually engaged, f The exact fighting strength 
of the Boers is not known, but they probably had some 
6,000 men in action in a well-fortified position, and are 
said to have lost 250 men killed and wounded, that is 
to say, less than five per cent, of their number. 



* There is a slight misprint in the German figures. — (Trans.) 
t Appendix IV, 



1899] "I 



CHAPTER XII. 
Comments on the Battle of Magersfontein. 

The conduct of the battle of Magersfontein by Lord 
Methuen was marked by a certain tenacity of purpose* 
and conscious adherence to views, which he had formed 
in the course of his long career, until the failure of his 
attack convinced him of the difficulty of a purely frontal 
advance across the great bare plain. Nevertheless, not- 
withstanding this failiure and the undoubted mistakes which 
he made, it cannot be denied that he was a cautious 
leader, who planned everything s)rstematically in order 
to ensiure success; he watched the course of the battle 
without interfering in details, but, when his Highland 
Brigade was overtaken by disaster, he appears to have 
acted the part of a mere spectator. 

Lord Methuen rightly decided to continue the action, 
notwithstanding the mishap to the Highlanders, and it 
was only in the method which he adopted that he was 
wrong. His subsequent conduct of the battle forms a com- 
plete contrast to his original dispositions, which had been 
carefully planned The idea of approaching the enemy 
under cover of the darkness was, considering that the 
ground was devoid of cover, an excellent one, and an attack 
was bound to be all the more effective if it should partake 
of the nature of a surprise. But, when the bombardment of 
the enem/s position ceased on the evening before the battle, 
the Boers had time to recover from its impression and to 
improve their defences ; they could no longer be surprised, 
and were, indeed, certain to have been put on their 



112 COMMENTS ON MAGERSFONTEIN. [Ch. XII. 

gxiard concerning the British plans. The expectation of 
an artillery duel was not realised, as the Boer guns did 
not reply, and the bombardment was of no value even 
in preparing the way for the attack, because the British 
infantry had been kept back too far, so that there was 
nothing to compel the Boers to occupy their trenches and 
offer themselves as targets to the EngUsh shrapnel The 
bombardment, therefore, was rather harmful than other- 
wise, even if it enabled the ranging of the batteries to be 
accurately carried out. The fact also remains that the 
whole of the artillery should have been employed in such 
a manner as to locate the enemy accurately and to pave 
the way thoroughly for the attack. 

From November 2gth until December nth the British 
cavalry ought, imdoubtedly, to have rendered better 
service, although the great difficulties in the way of 
reconnaissance must by no means be overlooked. That 
boundless region, the South African veldt, would, no 
doubt, be, as a rule, admirably adapted for the movement 
of large bodies of cavalry, if only it owned no master 
and were bereft of all cultivation ; but circumstances had 
changed with the immigration of the Boers. Although 
the latter ploughed but a tiny portion of the land, yet, 
wherever there is grass, however scanty, it belongs to 
some farmer and serves as pasture for the great herds of 
cattle. But it was just this use to which the veldt was 
put, which caused, perhaps, the greatest difficulty to the 
cavalry in the shape of wire fencing. The vast districts 
are divided by wire into smaller pasture grounds, while 
the roads are similarly enclosed. In addition to these 
various obstacles there was also at Magersfontein a high 
fence of barbed wire, which formed the boundary between 
the Orange Free State and Griqualand West In con- 
sequence of these wire obstacles the movement of consider- 
able bodies of cavalry was rendered almost impossible 



1899.] FAULTY RECONNAISSANCE. II3 

in what would otherwise have been, by nature, ideal 
ground for that arm, because, at the commencement of 
the campaign, the cavalry had not been provided with 
wire-cutters, whereas the Boers had numbers of them. 
Besides this gfreat disadvantage the reconnoitring parties 
laboured imder yet another one, namely, that the veldt 
is almost destitute of cover with the .exception of a 
few scattered trees or a rare patch of low bush. This 
latter circumstance, in combination with the long range 
Mauser in the hands of that fine shot, the Boer, had 
a still more paralysing effect upon the scouting of the 
patrols. The Boers saw them a long way off, and, lying 
in readiness behind a stone or a bush, awaited them, 
prepared to stop their further approach by means of well- 
aimed shots. 

• While, therefore, every allowance must be made for 
the difficulties which confronted the British reconnoitring 
parties, stress must, nevertheless, be laid on the fact that 
they could have done more in the course of 11 days. 
If no other method had been possible the motmted troops 
ought to have endeavoured to gain information by dis- 
moimting and advancing carbine in hand We may, indeed, 
assume that this was quite feasible had advantage been 
taken of the strips of bush between Magersfontein and 
the river. The reconnoitring parties cannot, in any case, 
be absolved from the severe reproach that they failed to 
report the existence of shelter trenches in front of Magers- 
fontein Hill, the occupation and fortification of the heights 
to the east of them, and, finally, the number and positions 
of the enemy's gims. The omission to despatch strong 
detachments round the Boer flanks partly accounts for 
this neglect; purely frontal reconnaissance will always 
give poor results. It is doubtful whether the balloon 
was sufficiently used during the days preceding the 
battle, but it rendered good service in the action 

I 



114 COMMENTS ON MAGERSFONTEIN. [Ch. XII. 

itself by locating the position of the Boer horses behind 
Magersfontein Hill and thereby enabling the howitzer 
battery to fire at them. Artillery officers, however, ought 
to have accompanied the cavalry patrols. 

The Black Watch had been pushed forward to cover 
the artillery on the afternoon before the battle, and the 
battalion thus became acquainted with the ground to 
be traversed, but no patrols were sent as far as the enemy, 
nor do any attempts appear to have been made to 
employ flag-signallers to annoimce the effect produced 
by the guns. The battalion was subsequently withdrawn, 
with the object, it would seem, of not drawing the atten- 
tion of the Boers to the impending attack. It would 
have been, imdoubtedly, better to have advanced it to 
within about 900 yards of the hostile position, and to 
have formed up there later the troops destined to carry 
out the night attack. The first halt, which was occasioned 
by the withdrawal of the outposts, could, at any rate, 
have been avoided, by relieving these in good time by 
a battalion from the troops in reserve. 

Military history shows that when troops destined to 
carry out a night attack throw themselves down as soon 
as fired at, it is only by bringing up reinforcements that 
they can again be induced to advance. Night attacks 
require formation in depth just as do actions fought by 
day, although of a different kind, and the British regula- 
tions also affirmed this principle, but the Colonial cam- 
paigns had caused the necessity for such a formation to be 
lost sight of. Lord Methuen, basing his orders upon the 
English regulations concerning the employment of reserves 
in the attack, kept the Guards, who were intended to 
support the Highland Brigade, nearly two and a-half miles 
away from what was to be the decisive point In the event 
of failure their help must have arrived too late, and the 
advantage of being able to cross the dangerous zone 



1899.J BAD ARRANGEMENTS. US 

under cover of darkness was lost Three thousand men, 
to be supported by 3,850 others in reserve, were to carry 
out the actual attack on the enemy, who was 6,000 or, 
perhaps, 7,000 strong. Pole-Carew, with 1,900 troops, 
was to make a supplemental attack along the railway 
towards Kimberley, and 1,450 men were employed in 
minor and unimportant tasks on the field of battle, or 
else were not in action at all 

If the night attack was to succeed it was bound to 
be carried out rapidly and in such formation that deploy- 
ment would have been the very simplest matter when 
collision with the Boers should occur. The formation 
adopted, that of mass of quarter-column, was unsuitable 
for rapid deployment tmless a spot had been previously 
reconnoitred and designated for the brigade to form up 
for attack, and it would have been better to advance in 
a line of several colimms. The possibility that the attack 
might fail does not, however, appear for one instant to 
have entered the minds of Methuen's Staff, and no steps 
were taken to bring the troops as fresh as possible inta 
action. For more than 12 hours the men had been-, 
exposed to pouring rain in an exceptionally cold night; 
they were forbidden to light fires, in order not to betray- 
their presence to the enemy, whose attention had already - 
been aroused sufficiently concerning the impending attack, 
both by the firing of the artillery and the passage of 
the Modder River. The fact that the men had had 
no hot meal either on the evening of December loth 
or on the morning of the nth is still more im-^ 
portant, for well-fed troops are far better fitted to 
imdergo the moral and physical exertions incidental to 
a battle than are those which, exposed to all the in- 
clemencies of the weather and insufficiently nourished, 
are placed in a position in which the very greatest demands 
will be made upon their endurance. Instead of sur^ 

I 2 



Il6 COMMENTS ON MAGERSFONTEIN. [Ch. XII. 

prising the enemy, the brigade was itself surprised in 
the most unfavourable formation. 

The idea that such a situation could only be saved by 
a resolute advance does not appear to have occurred to 
all the leaders; but it is probable that a general attack 
would nevertheless have been made had not the brigadier 
fallen just when he did, and if some considerable time had 
not elapsed before the next senior officer assimied the 
command. But as, in the meantime, it had become light, 
every instant of delay rendered it more difficult to attack. 
The isolated offensive strokes certainly show the good 
spirit which animated the troops, but had no influence 
whatever upon the further course of the battle, while 
the attempts which were made against the enemy's flanks 
were so very trifling that the Boers were able to swing 
round the Highland right with their own left wing, which 
extended far beyond the former. The gallant brigade 
clung to its ground just as did our Guards at St. Privat, 
but, whereas the latter received powerful support from the 
rear. Lord Methuen either considered that it was not neces- 
sary to reinforce the Highlanders immediately with the 
whole of his force which was still available, or else 
that it was impossible to do this. The feeling which 
subsequently possessed the survivors* that they had been 
sacrificed, may have already become very strong during 
the battle in the minds of many of the weaker-spirited, 
but, if all the troops had been thrust forward with 
•energy into the fight, victory might, perhaps, have crowned 
the effort. As it was, however, the brigade, left entirely 
to its own resources, exhausted, and exposed to the burn- 
ing rays of the sun, was bound to fail No troops so 
situated would have had any more strength left to resist 
an unexpected blow. We may well ask whether men 

* This gave rise to the fiction that Wauchope had protested against 
this attack being carried out. 



1899] BRITISH TACTICS. II7 

exposed to such physical and moral exertions would be 
able to repel a determined cavalry charge. It was its 
moral condition, and not the loss which had been 
suffered, that rendered it impossible to stop the retirement 
of the brigade, when carrying out a change of front The 
Black Watch and the Seaforths had, it is true, suffered 
seriously, but the other battaUons lost very few men, so 
that the nimiber of killed and wounded can by no means 
be accepted as the reason for the retreat 

The situation of the British force could not be improved 
by employing the Guards as a kind of defensive flank, and 
their advance very soon came to a standstill Once again 
it was a frontal attack which, entirely imsupported by 
any flanking fire, was repulsed by weak detachments. An 
attack from the British left would have offered apparently 
a better prospect of success. 

It is to be observed that all the battalions, which came 
under effective fire during daylight, had widely extended 
firing lines, while the supports, which followed in second 
line, also adopted an extended formation in good time. 
The Gordons, when ordered to reinforce, also formed 
early for attack and suffered little loss when they 
streng^ened the firing line. They traversed the fire- 
swept zone at medium ranges by means of long 
rushes, and the only imfavourable criticism which can 
be directed against them is that they employed all 
their strength at too early a period and without absolute 
necessity, so that they had not a man left in reserve in the 
event of a reverse. But they bore themselves well, 
and it was due to imfortunate circumstances and mis- 
understandings that they became entangled in the second 
flight of the battalions in the front line. 

The Brigade of Guards likewise advanced in suitable 
formation on a broad front and with sufficient depth, nor 
does it appear to have suffered much loss, but, in this 



Il8 COMMENTS ON MAGERSFONTEIN. [Ch. XIL 

case, it must be remembered that the brigade did not get 
nearer to the enemy than medium range. 

The cavaby and mounted infantry were employed solely 
as infantry, but, much as their support may have been 
desired in that capacity, it would certainly have been 
better if the mounted troops, with machine g^s and the 
battery of horse artillery, had been sent to act against 
the flank and rear of the Boers. Even if their dismounted 
action were justifiable until the arrival of the Guards, it 
was no longer so when a sufficient force of infantry had 
been brought up, and the attempt could still have been 
made then to operate against the flank and rear of the 
enemy. This might well have succeeded because .the 
latter had left their horses a long way to their rear. 

The batteries came into action singly, and the initia- 
tive and resolution of their commanding officers is deserv- 
ing of all recognition. That the shells had so little effect 
must be ascribed to the objects fired at, which were well 
covered and whose position was difficult to ascertain ; but 
it is to be noted that advantage was taken of every 
favourable opportunity to change position towards the 
front The field batteries advanced to within 1,300 
yards of the Boers; the horse artillery utilised a 
forward movement of the Seaforth Highlanders to approach 
within 1,000 yards of the enemy's position, and, when 
the Gordons then advanced, the howitzer battery im- 
mediately followed their*movement 

Special attention has been drawn by almost all English 
writers to the gfreat quantity of ammunition expended, 
which amoimted to about 1,000 rounds for each battery on 
an average. But careful consideration shows that this 
expenditure was not only in no degree large, but was, 
indeed, remarkably small, and the conclusion is either that 
the available supply was insufficient, or that there were 
difficulties in the way of bringing up ammunition to the 




1899] COLVILES LACK OF ENERGY, 1 19 

batteries. One thousand rounds are only slightly more 
than a quarter in excess of the ammunition supply of a 
German battery with its wagons, and are less than the 
quantity available in each battery if the contents of the 
light ammunition column be included. For an action 
which lasted 11 hours this expenditure cannot, therefore, 
be classed as extraordinary. 

The leadership of some of the subordinate commanders, 
who showed a want of initiative, was not altogether beyond 
reproacL The acting brigadier of the Highland Brigade 
also retained the command of his battalion, and, as this 
was on the extreme Highland right, his presence there ren- 
dered the transmission of orders uncommonly difficult It 
was due to this that the very important order of the divi- 
sional general, that the Highlanders were, come what 
might, to hold their ground, was not passed on to all the 
battalions, with the result that the fatal misunderstanding 
ag^in arose, which led to the second flight of the brigade. 

General Colvile, who commanded the Guards, might 
well have attacked with greater energy on his own 
responsibility, and this view appears to be justified both 
by the trifling loss of his brigade, which was only $}i 
per cent, as well as by the fact that, in the afternoon, 
six intact companies were still available. If Colvile, 
immediately after his arrival on the scene at J a.m., 
had made a resolute attack, he would have perceived 
very soon that there was only a weak force of the 
enemy, in unfinished field works, in front of him; he 
would then, probably, have scored not only a great suc- 
cess himself, but by transmitting this inteUigence to 
Lord Methuen, he would certainly have rendered the 
latter an important service. The initiative displayed by 
the officer commanding the Yorkshire Light Infantry 
deserves recognition ; he had been originally charged only 
with the task of safeguarding the passages across the river 



120 COMMENTS ON MAGERSFONTEIN. [Ch. XII. 

from the camp to Voetpad's Drift, but, when these were 
seen to be clear of the enemy, the battaUon advanced, 
and five of its companies, which were sent to Moss Drift, 
did valtiable work there. 

The splendid services of the Royal Army Medical 
Corps still remain to be noticed ; the officers, non-commis- 
sioned officers, and bearers had traversed repeatedly, 
with the greatest coolness, the fire-swept zone, which was 
nearly a mile in depth. On December nth they brought 
in, partly from the firing line, 500 wounded, dressed their 
wounds, and brought them down to Modder River station, 
whence they were evacuated by rail to Cape Town. In 
some isolated instances wounded men remained unseen 
in the bush or lay helpless for more than 24 hours close 
in front of the Boer trenches, but the bearer companies 
were not to blame on this accotmt, as the wounded in 
question had either not been noticed or else they were 
too far removed from help. Nor was it only in the 
British ranks that these men gave their services, for they 
did the same when asked by the enemy for aid. 

The British loss was not very heavy, except in the 
case of the Black Watch and the Seaforths, and this is 
explained chiefly by their isolated attacks and by the 
fact that men belonging to both these battalions took 
part in the vain endeavour to push in between the Boer 
left and centre. All the eye-witnesses are agreed that 
the heaviest losses occurred during the retreat, during 
which these two battalions suffered most The losses of all 
the remaining units, which took part in the battle, were 
far smaller ; in the case of the Gordons, who were within 
a quarter of a mile of the enemy, they only amoimted to 
5^ per cent; the ist BattaEon of the Coldstreams, 
which had approached a little nearer to the Boers than the 
2nd, lost 8 per cent, and the other battalion 3*3 per cent, 
while the mounted troops only lost 2 per cent. 



1899.] BRITISH AND BCERS COMPARED. 121 

The losses at Magersfontein do not allow of any reliable 
conclusions being drawn as regards the prospects of suc- 
cess of the attacker or the defender in a modem battle^ 
because the circumstances on both sides were too peculiar. 
The British advanced in a somewhat aimless manner and 
with no imity of action ; a portion only of their force was 
employed and that by driblets; there was no formation 
in depth, no reserves, nowhere the firm resolve to 
conquer somewhere. Without waiting to acquire the 
superiority in fire the troops were flung against the Boers. 

The British soldier was insufficiently trained in fire 
tactics and musketry, and the general use of volley-firing 
was boimd to give poor results, but the attack was 
favoured, on the other hand, by the complete silence of 
the enemy's guns. 

Turning now to the Boers, they were quite extra- 
ordinarily well fitted for fighting on the defensive ; they 
had had time to streng^en, by means of admirably planned 
trenches, their position, which was by nature a very strong 
one, and, in addition to all this, the attacker was com- 
plaisant enough to run his head against just the very 
strongest portion of that position. Their small force of 
artillery, however, was a great disadvantage for the Boers. 

Although the peculiar conditions which prevailed at the 
battle of Magersfontein prevent any absolute conclusions 
being deduced from it concerning future European war- 
fare, yet this action seems to prove one thing at any 
rate, namely, that the pessimistic views, which were ex- 
pressed after the Boer War, with respect to the difficulty 
of attacking troops armed with modem fire-arms have been 
very considerably exaggerated. 



Map 7 



99. 



/^ 



PART II. 



OPERATIONS IN THE WESTERN THEATRE OF 
WAR FROM THE ASSUMPTION OF COMMAND 
BY LORD ROBERTS UNTIL THE SURRENDER 
OF CRONJE. 



1899.] "S 



CHAPTER XIII. 
The Advance on Modder River and the Relief 

OF KiMBERLEY.* 

Field-Marshal Lord Roberts was appointed Com- 
mander-in-Chief of the British forces in South Africa on 
December 18th, 1899, with Major-General Lord Kitchener 
as his Chief of the StafiE. 

Lord Roberts, who had served in the Indian artillery, 
was 68 years of age when he was called from the command 
of the forces in Ireland to his ntw post of Commander- 
in-Chief in the field. An excellent horseman, he did not 
look as if he had passed 41 years in India, and he appeared 
to be able to midergo any physical fatigue. At the siege 
of Delhi and the reUef of Lucknow, during the Indian 
Mutiny, he had shown bravery, decision, and endurance. 
He was transferred as a Captain and Brevet-Major to the 
British service when the Indian forces were taken over by 
the Crown, and he commanded a column with great skill 
in the Afghan war of 1878- 1880, when he advanced as far 
as Kabul. When the British Mission there was murdered, 
and the warlike tribes again sprang to arms, he collected 

• Map 8. 



126 ADVANCE ON MODDER RIVER. [Ch.XIII. 

all the forces available, and defeated, with 4,000 men and 
18 guns, at Kharasiab, an enemy more than four times his 
strength and pursued him for 25 miles. It was solely 
due to his resolution and rapidity in marching from Kabul 
to Kandahar, when completely cut off from India, that 
a second and far more serious crisis was averted in the 
south-east His victory at Kandahar ended the war. 

Although Lord Roberts had not, hitherto, commanded 
much more than a division, and was not acquainted with 
the new theatre of war, yet the nation and the army 
discerned rightly in him a leader equal to the most difficult 
situations of the South African campaiga His sterling 
qualities, his firm but pleasant demeanour, his warm heart 
for even the humblest of his subordinates, and his con- 
stant care for the welfare of his troops were universally 
acknowledged. But, when he had a great object in 
view. Lord Roberts had not spared the blood of his 
soldiers, as his victories at Peiwar, Kharasiab, and Kanda- 
har had testified. On this occasion, therefore, both officers 
and men confidently expected similar briUiant feats of 
arms. 

The Commander-in-Chief was fortunate in having the 
assistance of Major-General Lord Kitchener, who, although 
only 49 years old, had attracted imiversal attention during 
his numerous Egyptian campaigns, and had proved himself 
a soldier of rare ability imder extremely difficult conditions. 
He had held the command in the Sudan campaign of 1896- 
1898, when he crushed the Mahdi by his decisive victory 
at Omdurman, and recovered the rich Sudan from the 
Dervishes. He had then shown himself to be not only 
a very capable general, but also an organiser of extra- 
ordinary ability. 

He was at this time one of the most remarkable officers 
in the British army. His personality was extremely 
soldier-like; he was very independent and reserved, and 




1900.] ROBERTS AND KITCHENER. 127 

disliked asking the advice of others. Nevertheless, he has 
a deep appreciation for everything really great and lofty, 
but, although deliberate as a rule, he can, on occasion, 
become impulsive, and allow himself to be carried away by 
his temperament 

Both men share the feeling of real enthusiasm for the 
might and greatness of their coimtry, for which they \/ould 
sacrifice anything. They have but one military ambition, 
namely, to see England progress along the path of glory 
and power. 

The army was in high spirits on learning that these two 
men were placed at its head; the knowledge that the 
conduct of the future operations had been confided to 
their proved and skilful hands, strengthened to a most 
remarkable extent the drooping self-confidence of officers 
and men. 

When Lord Roberts reached Cape Town, on January 
loth, 1900, the situation was not very favourable for the 
English, for their forces were divided into four separate 
groups on a front of nearly 500 miles.* 

The attempts made by the two prindpal bodiesf in 
Natal and on the Modder River^ to relieve Ladysmith 
and Kimberley had not been successful, and the troops 
which had made them were, for the time being, in their 
camps at Frere and on the Modder River. It was only 
with difficulty that the weak forces in the centre, imder 
French at Rensbiurg and Gatacre at Sterkstroom, were able 
to check the Boer Commandos which had invaded the 
north of Cape Colony, and to stem the swelling tide of 
rebellion there. The withdrawal of the British from 
Naauwpoort and Stormberg Junction, at the beginning 
of November, 1899, by order of General BuUer, had 
shown itself to be all the more disastrous, because the 

* Map 2, t See Appendix I. for distribution and strength. 



128 ADVANCE ON Af ODDER RIVER. [Ch. XIII. 

premature and tinnecessary abandonment of these im- 
portant railway centres had cut off communication between 
the eastern and western portions of Cape Colony. General 
French was, indeed, able later to re-occupy Naauwpoort, 
and to pave the way for the recapture of Colesberg, but 
Gatacre, after Stormberg, had to remain altogether on 
the defensive. That the English were spared further 
heavy defeats, and that the movement of rebellion in Cape 
Colony did not assume greater dimensions, was due solely 
to the leadership of the Boers, which lacked both resolu- 
tion and unity of command. How many Boers were still 
in the field is not exactly known; when the war beg^an 
they had about 40,000 men and 100 guns. 

The new Commander-in-Chief considered that the first 
thing to be done was to improve the internal organisa- 
tion of his army by making good a number of defects 
which had contributed to the want of success hitherto 
experienced. It was especially necessary to reorganise 
the train, and thereby render the troops more independent 
of the railways, and more mobile for operations on a 
large scale.* The scarcity of cavalry was also a great 
defect in the British organisation. 

As the Boers were mounted^ and very mobile, the 
want of a large mounted force, accompanied by horse 
artillery, had been greatly felt, in order to fight the 
enemy with his own weapons, and it was, therefore, 
resolved to form a large body of cavalry by collecting 
some of the regiments hitherto divided among the 
different groups of the army, and to raise a strong body 
of mounted infantry. In addition to the two regiments of 
mounted infantry, which had been sent with Buller*s 
force to Africa in November, six new ones were formed. 
Every infantry battalion, destined to take part in the 
operations under Lord Roberts, had to raise a company 

* See Appendix VIII. for full account of transport organisation. 




1900.] COLONIAL TROOPS. 12^ 

of mounted infantry, composed, as far as possible^ of 
soldiers who could ride; this measure deprived the bat- 
talions of many of their best men, well adapted in 
difficult situations to stiffen the weaker elements. A 
regiment of mounted infantry consisted of four companieSp 
while four regiments formed a brigfade. Colonel Hannay 
commanded the &rst, and Colonel Ridley the second 
brigade. The rapidity with which the new organisation 
was carried out, and the early commencement of the 
operations rendered it impossible to give any preUminary 
training to the newly formed mounted infantry, and this 
accounts for the fact that it rendered very little service 
at times when the advance began, but, later on, it became 
a most efficient and valuable force. 

Lord Roberts also decided to organise a strong body 
of Colonial troops, and to make more use of Cape Colony 
to strengthen his army. Brabant's Horse was increased, 
and Colonel Brabant was sent to Dordrecht with 3,000 
mounted Colonials,* at the end of January, charged with 
the task of guarding the eastern portion of Cape Colony 
in conjunction with Gatacre's force. Two other regiments 
of mounted infantry, namely, ** Roberts* Horse" and 
" Kitchener's. Horse," were also formed of men who had 
been attracted to South Africa by the war from all parts 
of the world, while the endeavours of influential indi- 
viduals in Cape Colony to raise fresh troops were sup- 
ported in every possible manner, Nesbitt's Horse and 
other units being thus organised. The strength of these 
volunteer corps varied continuously throughout the 
war. 

In order to prepare the force better for the impending 
military operations, both the Headquarter Staff and the 
divisional generals issued instructions on tactics, adminis- 

* Two regimenti of Brabant's Horse and the Kaffrarian Rifles. 

K 



130 ADVANCE ON MODDER RIVER. [Ch. XIIL 

tration, and discipline, which were based upon the 
experience hitherto gained ; the general orders from Head- 
quarters, dated January 26th and February sth, 1900, and 
the instructions issued by Lieut-General Kelly-Kenny, who 
commanded the sixth division, are noteworthy.* 

The one aim and object of all these measures of the 
Commander-in-Chief was to enable the army to take the 
offensive on a large scale, and to carry the war as soon 
as possible into the enemy's country, in order to regain 
the initiative, as, otherwise, no improvement in the 
Hiilitary situation was to be hoped for. Bloemfontein 
was to be, in the first instance, the objective of this 
offensive. By threatening the capital of the Orange 
Free State it was hoped that the Boers would be com- 
pelled to abandon the sieges of Ladysmith and Kimberley, 
in order to protect their own country, while, at the same 
time, the enemy's forces in the north of Cape Colony 
would likewise be forced to retreat It was this which 
enabled the British forces in that region to cross the 
Orange River. 

Three lines of advance were available for the move- 
ment against Bloemfontein ; t from Natal across the Tugela, 
and through Ladysmith; from the central part of Cape 
Colony, across the Orange River and by Springfontein ; 
and from the western portion of the Colony across the 
Modder River, on Kimberley. One of the first two lines 
seemed to promise the most rapid and certain success, 
for they were the most direct routes to Bloemfontein, 
and, at the same time, the railways from Durban, East 
London, and Port Elizabeth were available. The early 
relief of Ladysmith, or the expulsion of the Boers from 
the north of Cape Colony, would have checked, in the 
most effective manner, the further extension of the move- 

* See Appendix II. t Map i. 



1900.] CHOICE OF ROUTE. 131 

ment of rebellion, and the communications of the army 
would thus have been rendered secure; but as only short 
trains of &ve or, at the outside, six carriages could run 
on the Durban Railway, owing to the steep gradients, 
this line had not enough carrying capacity to supply so 
large an army sufficiently. Besides, its terminus was at 
Harrismith, nearly 190 miles from Bloemfontein. 

In the event of an advance vid Bethulie and Norval's 
Pont, along the lines from East London and Port Eliza- 
beth, it was to be expected that the Boers would destroy 
the railway bridges across the Orange River, which they 
afterwards actually did These lines, therefore, from the 
Orange River to Bloemfontein, would probably have been 
unavailable for several weeks, which must have neces- 
sitated the operations coming to a standstill Should the 
advance, however, be made in the west on Kimberley, 
the Line of Communications would be over 600 miles 
in length, the offensive action would be weakened, while 
the rear of the army would be in all the more danger, 
since the Boers near Colesberg, in the north of Cape 
Colony, could then threaten the flank and rear of the 
advancing troops. The Kimberley line of advance would 
be, to say the least, hazardous, should the Boers display 
the slightest degree of activity, unless the British should 
be in undisputed possession of the north of Cape Colony, 
of the passages across the Orange River, and of the rail- 
way to Bloemfontein. The safety of the communications 
would be, also, in this case, all the more important, be- 
cause the country, in which the operations would be 
carried on, was, with the exception of some cattle and 
grass, destitute of supplies, which would have, therefore, 
to be brought up from the rear. But the difficulty of 
doing this would be all the greater, because wheeled 
transport alone could be used after Modder River Station 
or from Kimberley, since there was no railway thence to 

K 2 



133 ADVANCE ON MODDER RIVER. [Ch. XIII. 

Bloemfontein. The train, therefore, would reqtiire for a 
distance of over 90 miles from 4,000 to 5,000 teams in 
order to supply an army of some 40,000 men and 15,000 
horses. 

Lord Roberts resolved, nevertheless, to advance from 
the west upon Kimberley, his decision being chiefly due 
to the fact that the railway as far as Modder River Station, 
and especially the great bridge across the Orange River, 
was securely held by the British. The distance to Bloem- 
fontein from Kimberley is much less than that from 
Bethulie or Harrismith, while Lord Roberts was right in 
thinking there was little danger to his conununicaticms 
from Boers on his flank owing to the then complete 
inactivity of the enemy. In war it is of the utmost 
importance to gauge correctly the adversary, and what 
he is likely to do in any given case. In this particular 
instance the configuration of the country appears to have 
materially influenced the choice of route. 

The course of events in Natal had demonstrated that 
that theatre of war, more than any other, enabled the 
Boers, although inferior in numbers, to offer a lengthy and 
successful resistance owing to the peculiar configtiration of 
the coimtry, a difficulty which would also present itself in 
the event of an advance along the railways from East 
London and Port Elizabeth upon Stormberg and Middel- 
burg, and thence on Springfontein. To seize the broad 
and strongly defended section of the Orange River would 
have been very difficult, because the desolate and hilly 
region north of the river, especially at Donkerspoort, and 
the maze of kopjes, which formed a numerous series of 
positions, were not only of themselves favourable for 
defence, but would also greatly aid the tactics of the 
mobile Boers. The country about the Modder River, on 
the other hand, between Kimberley and Bloemfontein, 
was very much more open^ and^ thereforci far less 



1900.] PHYSICAL FEATURES. 1 33 

hazardous for British tactics than the lofty and trackless 
mountains in Natal and the region about the Orange River. 
The territory between Kimberley and Bloemfontein is a 
rolling plain from 3,000 to 5,000 feet above the level of 
the sea, and is interspersed here and there with small kopjes 
between 50 and 500 feet in height The smaller eminences 
are, as a rule, cone-shaped, while the larger ones are flat- 
topped, and the slopes are almost invariably very steep 
and, like the summits, covered with boulders. Owing to 
the clear atmosphere these hills were admirably adapted 
for signal stations, and the folds of the ground shared 
with the kopjes the advantages due to a clear field of 
fire in that bare regioa 

The ground was very scantily cultivated, and it was 
only in the immediate vicinity of the farms that small 
strips of ploughed land were to be seen while, here and 
there, were visible some trees near the watercourses, 
principally eucalyptus, mimosa, and willow. Farms are 
scarce in this particular district, agriculture being un- 
remunerative owing to the great dryness of the country, 
and the high wages due to the competition in the labour 
market of the mines in the neighbourhood Roads in our 
sense of the word are to be found only near the towns, 
there being merely unmetalled tracks between the en- 
trances through the wire fences, which, as a rule, enclose 
tiie farms, and are an unpleasant obstacle, especially 
for cavalry. With these exceptions the veldt is the 
road, and when troops are on the march a fairly good 
one is formed of itself in dry weather. When the opera- 
tions conmienced, there had been no rain for several 
weeks, so that the veldt was, in many places, withered, 
and did not afford sufficient forage even for the easily 
satisfied draught oxen. The country to the west of 
Paardeberg often resembles a sandy desert, but its 
dimate is healthy, the pure and refreshing air of 



134 ADVANCE ON MODDER RIVER. [Ch. XIII. 

the highlands counterbalancing the frequent vagaries 
of the weather, as well as the sharp difference in tempera- 
ture by day and by night The troops suffered greatly 
from the heat by day during February, and tempera- 
tures ranging from no to 122 degrees Fahrenheit were 
by no means tmcommon between the hours of 11 a.m. 
and 4 p.m. Every afternoon heavy, black clouds seemed 
to promise the long-desired rain, but there came instead 
only the dreaded dust storms, when the air is so charged 
with dust and sand that it becomes as dark as during 
a London fog. The nights were, as a rule, cool, 
and the hours before sunrise often quite cold. On 
February 22nd, there were thunderstorms, accompanied 
by torrents of rain, which caused the streams to over- 
flow, and transformed the veldt into a morass; the rain 
continued to fall daily until March 7th, but only, as a 
rule, at night, and this made the bivouacs exceedingly 
uncomfortable and very cold. Nevertheless the health 
of the troops remained excellent throughout this period, 
thanks to the climate, which was very healthy in other 
respects, while the weather changed for the better on 
March 7th. 

In selecting a line of advance the question of water was 
of first-rate importance, and as the country was singularly 
dry, military operations and the watercourses were in- 
evitably closely bound together. The route from Kim- 
berley to Bloemfontein lay along the Modder River, which 
afforded an ample supply of water, and it was only there 
that the army could be sufficiently supplied in this 
respect 

These considerations then had determined the Com- 
mander-in-Chief to advance through the western portion 
of Cape Colony vid Kimberley on Bloemfontein. The 
grounds for his decision were sound, and the course of the 
operations showed how correctly he had appraised all 



i9oa] BRITISH CONCENTRATE. 135 

the circumstances, and the effect which this advance 
would exert on the Boers. The troops were assembled 
accordingly.* 

During the month of January reinforcements in the 
shape of the fifth division, under Lieut.-General Sir 
Charles Warren, and the sixth division, under Lieut- 
General Kelly-Kenny, arrived from England; the former 
joined the force imder Sir Redvers BuUer, while the latter 
was sent, at first, to Naauwpoort to strengthen the 
troops in the centre. The seventh division, under Lieut- 
General Tucker, was also expected to arrive at Cape 
Town towards the end of January. 

The intention was to advance on Bloemfontein with 
the sixth and seventh divisions, the cavalry division about 
to be formed, and another new infantry division, the ninth, 
which was composed of the Highland Brigade, taken away 
from Lord Methuen, and of battalions hitherto employed 
upon the Lines of Communication; the brigades of this 
division assembled at Modder River Camp and Graspan 
respectively. The cavalry division was formed by grouping 
together all the cavalry regiments, which had been hitherto 
allotted to the troops in the centre and west, and the 
infantry divisions also had all their cavalry taken away 
from them, a measure which was to reveal itself later in 
the guise of a disastrous error. 

In these days of long range fire-arms it is imperatively 
necessary to attach some cavalry, if only a few men, to 
each body of infantry, in order to protect the latter from 
being surprised by fire. General French was appointed 
to the command of the cavalry division, and he was suc- 
ceeded at Colesberg by General Clements. 

The whole of the force was collected along the rail- 
way between the Modder and Orange Rivers during the 

• For Strength and Order of Battle see Appendices III., IV., and IX. 



136 ADVANCE ON MODDER RIVER. [Ch. XIII. 

first days of February,* the seventh division being des- 
patched direct from Cape Town to Graspan, whereas the 
sixth division was brought up also by rail some days 
later vid De Aar to Modder River Camp, where the cavalry 
division was assembled by February 8th. A portion of 
the mounted infantry, about 2,000 strong, under Colonel 
Hannay, was at Orange River Station, and with it were 
also the 6th Dragoon Guards (Carabineers), under Colonel 
Porter, who were intended to form part of the cavalry 
division. 

The concentration of the troops was effected with such 
rapidity that the Boers were ignorant of their movements, 
and Lord Roberts, in order to mislead the enemy as to 
his intentions, made a demonstration against their right 
flank, to strengthen them in the belief that he intended 
to turn the left of the Magersfontein position. 

Partly with this object, and partly to drive off some 
Boer forces, which were reported between the Riet and 
Orange Rivers to the west of the railway, and dangerously 
near to it, a detachment, under General MacDonald, con- 
sisting of 8 battalions, 2 squadrons, i battery, and I 
company of engineers, moved from Modder River Camp 
early on February 4th along the Riet River towards 
Koodoesberg Drift, about 16 miles to the west of Modder 
River Camp. A hot fight took place on February 
6th at Koodoesberg, where the Boers had about 1,200 
men. The British lost 2 officers and 40 men, but did 
not succeed either on that or on the following day, 
although reinforced by a cavalry brigade, under General 
Babing^on, in driving the enemy from his position. The 
detachment was recalled to Modder River Camp on 
February 8th by order of the Commander-in-Chief. The 
resolute but unsuccessful attack of General MacDonald 

* Map a 



1900.] BOER ARMY. 1 37 

was not in accordance with the purely demonstrative object 
of the enterprise, especially as the Boers had already with- 
drawn to the north bank of the Riet River on the approach 
of the British, so that they no longer threatened the railway. 

The mounted infantry, under Colonel Hannay, was also 
ordered at the same time to make a demonstration from 
Orange River Station in the direction of Fauresmith, so 
as to attract the attention of the enemy to that place, 
and to induce him to believe that it was intended to 
advance by Fauresmith on Bloemfontein. 

Lord Roberts arrived at Modder River Camp on 
February 8th, and the main body of the Boers was then 
still less then eight miles north of Jacobsdal in position 
on the heights of Magersfontein, awaiting a fresh frontal 
attack on the part of the English. Some weak Com- 
mandos lay scattered along a front of nearly 20 miles on 
both sides of the railway, between Koodoesberg Drift 
and Jacobsdal The Boer strength was estimated at from 
8,000 to 10,000 men, while about 2,000 others, under 
General Ferreira, were investing Kimberley. The mobiHty 
of the Boers had now suffered greatly, owing to the fact 
that they had g^dually collected an enormous quantity 
of baggage during their long and inactive sojourn in the 
Magersfontein positions, while nimibers of women and 
children had arrived, so that many Boers were leading 
a purely family life while on active service. The horses 
were badly fed, as the veldt had been denuded of grass 
during the long halt Military activity fell off, especially 
where outpost duties and reconnaissance were concerned, 
and the Boers relied upon the information brought in by 
Kafi^ which was, however, remarkably accurate, and was 
transmitted with extraordinary rapidity. 

The first aim of Lord Roberts was the relief of Kim- 
berley, which was also urgently demanded by public 
opinion in England, so as to acquire a secure base, and 



138 ADVANCE ON MODDER RIVER. [Ch.XIII. 

especially the Cape Town, De Aar, Kimberley Railway, for 
tiie further advance upon Bloemfontein. But before this 
could be done, the Boers, under General Cronje, who 
were covering the siege of Kimberley, had to be reckoned 
with. It was, therefore, resolved to avoid a renewed 
attack on the strong Magersfontein position, and, instead, 
to make a long turning movement with the main body 
eastward towards Rondavel Drift and Klip Drift, in 
order to compel the Boers, by threatening their flank and 
rear, to abandon their strong position, and so to open 
the road to Kimberley. The first division, imder Lord 
Methuen, was to remain at Modder River Camp in order 
to veil the movement of the army towards its right 

With the intention of ensuring secrecy no orders were 
issued; the divisional commanders received sealed in- 
structions daily and personalfy from Headquarters, but 
they were kept altogether in the dark concerning the 
intentions of the Commander-in-Chief, and the objective 
of the operations. Not even when the Riet River was 
reached did they know whether the fiulher advance was 
to be towards the east or towards the north, while, in 
order still further to deceive the enemy, false intelligence 
as to the concentration of large forces at Naauwpoort was 
published in the Cape newspapers, and the tents were 
left standing in the deserted camps.* 

Orders were issued on the evening of February 8th for 
the first movements of troops. The seventh division and 
the cavalry division were to reach Ramdam on February 
nth, and the mounted infantry at Orange River Station 
was to assemble at Rodepan, on the same day, on the 
right of the seventh division. The cavalry division 
received special instructions to relieve Kimberley promptly. 
The sixth division was moved by rail from Modder River 



* Thm troops loffered gmtlj from the bad weather without their tents. 



1900.] BRITISH MOVEMENTS. I39 

Camp to Enslin on the evening of the lOth, and it remained 
there until the 12th; the seventh division and the cavabry 
division reached their destination undisturbed on February 
nth, but the mounted infantry, and the Carabineers, under 
Hannay, had a &ght with a weak body of the enemy on 
their way to Rodepan, in which the British lost 33 killed 
and wounded besides 23 prisoners. On the same day a 
strong force of mounted infantry, which had been collected 
partly at Belmont and partly from the other divisions, 
joined the cavalry division; it was composed of the 1st 
and 3rd Regiments of Mounted Infantry, Roberts' Horse, 
the New Zealand Mounted Infantry, the Queensland 
Mounted Infantry, and Rimington*s Guides. A brigade 
of motmted infantry was formed from these units under 
Lieut-Colonel Alderson, and was attached to the cavalry 
division for the march on Kimberley. 

General French, accompanied by his Staff, had 
thoroughly reconnoitred the Riet River* on February nth, 
with the result that he resolved to cross the river at Water- 
val Drift on the following day, without waiting for the 
arrival of the Carabineers, who belonged to his first bri- 
gade, or that of Colonel Porter, its brigadier. The 
cavalry division moved off at 2 am. on February 12th, 
the three brigades moving on a broad front across the 
veldt, the first on the right, the second in the centre, 
and the third on the left; the guns were between the 
brigades, and the mounted infantry was with the first 
brigade, while Rimington's Guides were charged with the 
reconnaissance duties. 

The patrob reported Waterval Drift as being free from 
the enemy, but when the division approached the ford, the 
kopjes on the right bank were occupied by about 500 
Boers with two guns, under De Wet, who had been 
ordered by General Cronje to stop the advance of the 

• Map. 8. 



I40 ADVANCE ON MODDER RIVER. LCh.XIII. 

English cavalry. General French thereupon ordered the 
third brigade, under Colonel Gordon, to make a feint 
against the Drift, whilst he crossed the river with the 
other two brigades somewhat higher up at De Kiel Drift 
Before the Boers became aware of the turning movement, 
the first brigade and the mounted infantry had already 
gained the north bank and were advancing against 
the cnem/s left on the kopjes at Waterval Drift 
The latter was thus compelled to quit his position, and 
the third brigade was also enabled to cross at that place. 
When the division had been again collected, it bivouacked 
on the north bank towards i p.m. near Waterval Drift 
The loth Hussars were sent to Blaauwbank, late in the 
afternoon, with orders to find watering places for the other 
troops which were following, and to cut the telegraph 
between Jacobsdal and Koffyfontein. Nothing was done 
on this day to reconnoitre towards the Modder River cm: on 
the right flank; not one single patrol was sent out, and 
touch was soon lost with the Boers of the forenoon, an 
error which was to be cruelly punished some days after- 
wards. De Wet had retired in the direction of Winter 
Hoek, where he was watching for an opportunity to fall 
upon the British rear. 

The seventh infantry division likewise reached the right 
bank of the Riet River at De Kiel Drift towards evening, 
and bivouacked there. It had marched nearly i6 miles 
since / o'clock in the morning, and the Uves of many men 
had been lost owing to the terrific heat and the great 
scarcity of water; the 15th brigade alone had 21 deaths, 
and nearly half the men had fallen out. The division 
required some days to recover from the march, which had 
been all the more exhausting Because the men had come 
straight from being on board ship and in the train, and 
were, therefore, quite out of condition.* 

* The 15th brigade had 3,878 men, of whonn a,oiO were resenrists. 



1900.] ADVANCE OF THE BRITISH. 14I 

The sixth division, and the mounted infantry, under 
Hannay, reached Ramdam; the 82nd Battery, which had 
hitherto belonged to the former, and also the 65th 
Howitzer Battery, were transferred on the same day to 
the newly constituted ninth division, of which the nine- 
teenth brigade had remained at Graspan, while the High- 
land Brigade had gone to Enslin. The Headquarter Staff 
moved from Modder River Camp to Ramdam, and thence 
on the following day to De Kiel Drift 

The cavalry division continued its advance in a northerly 
direction towards the Modder River at 9.30 o'clock on 
the morning of February 13th, with strict orders to seize 
the passage across the Modder River under any circum- 
stances on that day, and to occupy Rondavel Drift The 
division was also directed to search for watering places 
for the infantry which was following in rear. The dis- 
tance to the Modder River was about nineteen miles, and 
the brigades kept the same order of march as on the 
preceding day, each brigade being formed in brigade 
column while the mounted infantry followed with the 
ammimition columns. 

The advance was slightly retarded towards noon owing 
to the division being completely surprised* by the fire of 
a small Boer detachment which suddenly appeared on 
the right flank. It was soon driven off by the fire of 



* It has been impossible to ascertain what steps were taken with regard 
to detailed reconnaissance, or whether any patrols were sent out. At any 
rate, the scouting was defective, otherwise the division could not have been 
surprised by a flanking fire. A German, who observed these events from 
the English side, has criticised the British reconnaissance in the following 
language : " The aversion to outpost duties and thorough reconnaissance, 
which may often seem to entail needless exertions on the troops, but which, 
on the other hand, prevent disaster, is so general among British ofBcert, 
that one is almost inclined to connect this feeling with the national and 
ineradicable optimism of their race. It is often openly stated that it is 
better to get now and then into a really tight place by neglect of these 
duties, than to have to endure the constant irksomeness which they entail. 
Yet even with regard to the Boers the luxury of holding these views was 
firequently a cost^ one." 



142 ADVANCE ON MODDER RIVER. [Ch.XIII. 

some batteries which came rapidly into action, but con- 
tinued to constantly disturb the right flank of the 
advance. 

When the division had approached within six miles or 
so of the Modder River by about 4 p.m., it was reported 
that the enemy was occupying Rondavel Drift, and General 
French adopted the same tactics as on the previous day. 
The third brigade made a feint on Rondavel Drift, 
while the first and second brigades were to cross the river 
at Klip Drift, but this was also found to be in possession 
of the Boers. The two brigades, however, succeeded in 
scattering the enemy, who were in position on the sputh 
bank, and who fled across the river in a northerly direc- 
tion, abandoning their laager with its large supplies, with- 
out having made any attempt whatever at resistance. The 
third brigade also managed to gain the north bank of 
the Modder River at Rondavel Drift without encotmter- 
ing any serious opposition, and it likewise captured a 
laager, which had been deserted by the Boers. 

Outposts were placed on the heights on the north bank 
and the division bivouacked in the laagers abandoned by 
the enemy. The large supplies of food and forage, which 
were foimd in them, were all the more welcome, because 
the troops had not seen their own baggage after marching 
from Ramdam; with it were carried rations and forage 
for some days, while on the horses was forage for two days 
only. On tliis day the division lost a large number of 
horses in consequence of the tiring march and the gpreat 
heat. In the horse artillery alone 59 horses died, while 
a large number were utterly exhausted ; the best animals, 
therefore, had to be taken away from the ammunition 
columns in order to horse th^ guns, and this necessitated 
leaving the greater portion of the reserve ammunition 
behind at the Modder River, it being only possible to take 
a few wagons on to Kimberley. 



igoo.] NO RECONNAISSANCE. 143 

The field telegraph detachment with the division had 
endeavoured to effect communication from the Riet to the 
Modder River, but the line, which was a ground one, 
had b come unserviceable in many places owing to the 
grass having caught fire. Communication between the 
cavalry division and army Headquarters was, in conse- 
quence, carried on by means of relays of despatch riders 
posted at Rooidam and Blaauwbosch. 

The sixth division reached the north bank of the Riet 
River at Waterval Drift at noon, and was joined there by 
Hanna/s moimted infantry, which was then placed for 
the next few days under the orders of Lieut.-General 
Kelly-Kenny. The Carabineers, who had accompanied the 
motmted infantry from Orange River Station, now sepa- 
rated from it in order to endeavoiu: to join the cavalry 
division by way of de Kiel Drift The ninth division con- 
centrated at Ramdam, and was joined there by the 82nd 
Field Battery, the 65th Howitzer Battery, and the City 
Imperial Volunteers, so that it was then complete. 

The seventh division remained at de Kiel Drift on 
February 13th; it had been delayed owing to the fact 
that its baggage and train had stuck fast in the ford, and 
could only be brought on to the north bank with great 
exertions, and after much loss of time. The march of the 
preceding day had also so exhausted the men that they 
were in urgent need of rest and care. The cavalry divi- 
sion halted on the Modder on February 14th awaiting 
the arrival of its train, and of infantry to guard the river. 

The division was now complete, having been joined by 
the Carabineers and a squadron of the 14th Hussars. As 
regards reconnaissance on the 14th practically nothing was 
done, ostensibly because the horses were too exhausted, 
an ever-recurring excuse with which every omission on 
the part of this arm was palliated throughout the entire 
campaiga Consequently the British did not learn that 



144 ADVANCE ON MODDER RIVER. [Ch.XIIL 

the Boers had abandoned the investment of Kimber- 
ley from the south during the night of February 14th- 15 th. 

The sixth division, accompanied by Lord Kitchener, 
marched by way of Wegdraai Drift, and reached the 
Modder River at Klip Drift, in the early hours of February 
15th; it had traversed about 26 miles in 24 hours, and, 
considering the great heat, the scarcity of water, and the 
exertions of the previous days, this performance was all the 
more remarkable as there were few stragglers. A com- 
parison between the marching of the sixth and seventh 
divisions at that time shows most graphically the difference 
between troops in condition and those, which, just fresh 
from a long journey, have to face considerable exertions. 
The seventh division followed the sixth, and, making a 
night march from de Kiel Drift vid Waterval Drift, reached 
Wegdraai Drift early on February 15th. 

The 9th division marched to Waterval Drift on the 
14th, crossed the river about noon and bivouacked on 
the north bank; it was to follow the 7th division to 
Wegdraai Drift on the 1 5th. A large supply column, con- 
sisting of 200 wagons and a quantity of cattle, like- 
wise reached the north bank at Waterval Drift; their 
teams had rendered very good service during the crossing 
of the naval guns, which would, otherwise, have probably 
remained behind their division. The task of protecting 
this supply column, which was also to march from Water- 
val Drift to Wegdraai Drift on the 1 5th, devolved upon the 
ninth division,* and two companies of the Gordon High- 
landers were told off for the duty ; they were joined early 
on the 15 th by three weak companies of motmted infantry 
tmder Colonel Ridley, so that the whole escort numbered 
about 360 rifles. 



* When this order was received by the ninth division from Army Head- 
quarters its commander sent to enquire the strength of the escort which he 
was to provide. In reply, he was informed that 200 men would suffice. 



I900.] BOERS BAR THE WAY. I45 

General French intended to continue his advance for 
the relief of Kimberley early on February 15th, in order, 
if possible, .to reach that town on the same evenings but 
the Boers had blocked the road during the night, a 
detachment, about goo strong with three Krupp guns, 
having occupied the kopjes north of Klip Drift in a semi- 
circle about two and a-half miles in extent Some- 
where about the centre of the Boer position there was a 
col from i,2CX) to 1,300 yards wide, which connected two 
neighbouring kopjes, and the ground sloped gently up 
from the river. This col was within effective range of the 
Boers ensconced on both the kopjes, the three Krupp guns 
being on the western hill. 

After the sixth division had occupied the position 
on the heights between the two drifts, where the 
cavalry had been, the latter assembled about 8.30 a.m. 
at Klip Drift. The patrols soon succeeded in ascertain- 
ing the strength and the extent of the enemy's position, 
because the Boers, contrary to their usual custom, opened 
fire on them at long range, and so disclosed their where- 
abouts. In consequence of the reports sent in, French 
ordered his seven batteries of horse artillery, which were 
soon afterwards joined by two batteries of the sixth divi- 
sion, and two 12 pr. naval g^ns, to come into action on the 
heights on the north bank. Supported by the fire of his 
guns, he intended to break through the centre of the 
enemy's position. The artillery opened fire at about 2,200 
yards range, spreading it along the entire Boer position, 
and it soon succeeded in silencing the three hostile guns. 
Simultaneously with the opening of the artillery fire, the 
infantry of the sixth division advanced north of the river 
against the Boers on the high' ground 

The hour was just after 9 a.m. French assembled his 
three brigadiers, informed them of his intention, and 
ordered Gordon's Brigade with its two batteries of horse 

L 



146 RELIEF OF KIMBERLEY. [Ch.XIII. 

artillery to form the first line, with 4 yards interval between 
each man, and to break through across the col in the 
direction of Kimberley. The second brigade, under 
Broadwood, was to follow in support in line at 500 yards 
distance, while the first brigade, under Porter, together 
with the remaining five batteries of horse artillery, which 
were to continue firing until the last possible moment, 
was to form the third line. 

The two leading brigades at once deployed, and the 
horsemen, who were soon veiled in dense clouds of dust, 
dashed into the enemy's fire, the divisional general riding 
at the head of the second brigade. The spectacle dis- 
played to the eyes of the sixth division was magnificent ; 
every man held his breath; the moment was one of the 
most extreme tension, for it seemed as if the result of the 
bold attempt must be the utter destruction of the gallant 
riders. It had, however, already succeeded before the 
spectators were really able to appreciate the fact After 
the dense clouds of dust, caused by the 6,000 horses, had 
somewhat dispersed, the three brigades were seen to rally 
nearly a mile beyond the enemy's position, and the road 
to Kimberley was open. It was marvellous that the divi- 
sion should have ridden almost without loss through the 
Boer fire; the casualties amounted to only one ofl&cer, 
and 15 men killed and wounded, together with about 
20 horses. The first line lost 15 killed and wounded. 
The remarkably small loss is explained chiefly by the great 
rapidity of the manoeuvre which completely surprised the 
adversary. The impression caused by the dashing mass of 
horsemen was such that some of the Boers took to flight 
before the cavalry had approached within effective rifle 
range. Those of the enemy, who held their ground, fired 
for the most part too high in their excitement, especially 
as they had occupied, contrary to their usual custom, the 
summit; of the heights and not their foot. The cavahy 



igoa] EFFECT OF BRITISH GUNS. 147 

too were enveloped in such dense clouds of dust that 
they ofiEered no certain target The efiEective preparation, 
and support of the attack by the artillery contributed 
also greatly to its success, and one of the Boers 
present stated that "the &re from the English guns was 
such that we were scarcely able to shoot at all at the 
advancing cavalry." The main body of the Boers, leaving 
15 killed and wounded, fled towards Magersfontein, and 
their terror was such that, by their exaggerated accotmts, 
they communicated their dejected spirits to other biurghers 
in laager. A ntmiber of Boers, unable to get their horses 
in time, had surrendered A British officer described his 
impressions in the following language: — 

"The enterprise appeared to us at first as quite hope- 
less; we believed that only a few of us would come out 
of it alive, and, had we made a similar attack at Alder- 
shot, we should certainly have all been put out of action, 
and have been looked upon as idiots. When we had 
galloped about a quarter of a mile, we received a very 
hot frontal and flanking fire, and I looked along the ranks 
expecting to see the men falling in masses, but I saw no 
one come down, although the rifle fire was crackling all 
around us. The feeling was wonderfully exciting, just 
as in a good run to hounds." 

This charge of French's cavalry division was one of 
the most remarkable phenomena of the war; it was the 
first and last occasion during the entire campaign that 
infantry was attacked by so large a body of cavalry, 
and its staggering success shows that, in future wars, the 
charge of great masses of cavalry will be by no means 
a hopeless undertaking even against troops armed with 
modem rifles, although it must not be forgotten that 
there is a difference between charging strong infantry in 
front and breaking through small and isolated groups of 
skirmishers. 

L a 



148 RELIEF OF KIMBERLEY. [Ch.XIII. 

After an hour's repose the division continued its advance 
on Kimberley about 11.30 a.m., the second brigade march- 
ing by Alexandersfontein, and the other two by Olifants- 
fontein. A squadron was left behind at Abon's Dam, about 
six miles north-west of Klip Drift, in order to maintain 
communication with the sixth division. Nothing was 
done in the way of reconnaissance on the left flank 
towards Magersfontein, and the flying Boers were 
not even followed by patrols in order to ascertain where 
they halted. The brigades encotmtered no resistance 
worth mentioning during their further advance; General 
Ferreira had already abandoned the investment of Kim- 
berley, on the southern and western sides, during the 
night of February 14th- 15 th. Some weak Boer detach- 
ments with a few guns remained, however, to the north 
and east of the town, at which they continued to fire until 
the arrival of the cavalry division. Most of the Boers 
retired towards the north and north-east, but a few went 
east with Ferreira, so as to aid Cronje. Ferreira died a 
few days later, when his men dispersed. 

French had got into heliographic communication with 
Kimberley at 2 p.m., and announced its speedy relief. The 
division reached the town about 6 p.m., and General 
French rode at its head as the deliverer, being greeted 
by the plaudits of the inhabitants. 

The "four months siege of Kimberley," as puffed up 
by the newspapers, was rather a pretence than a serious 
military enterprise. All that the Boers really did was to 
prevent the importation of food, and to cut off the water 
supply, which was replaced by filtered water from the 
mines. The damage done to the town by the "great 
bombardment " was so small that " one had to look very 
carefully in order to find any trace of it."* 

* Statement 0! an eje-witness. 



1900.] EFFECTS OF THE RELIEF. I49 

The brigades bivouacked, after marching into Kimber- 
ley, outside the town ; the first and the third to the east 
of it, and the second to the south of the city. The 
untiring energy of the cavahy leader was shown by 
the following order issued to the troops immediately after 
their entry : " The brigades will be ready in their bivouacs 
to march at five o'clock in the morning, and will await 
further orders." General French decided to make use 
of his success at once by an energetic pursuit of the 
enemy. Although the material results of the relief of 
Kimberley were small, owing to the premature and rapid 
flight of the Boers, it was, nevertheless, of great value 
in raising the spirits and self-confidence of the troops, 
and their leaders, throughout the whole British army, 
which was depressed, and in part disheartened, after so 
many abortive efforts. 

The sixth division remained on the Modder River over 
February 1 5th, in order to recover from its very exhausting 
march of the previous day. In spite of its advanced position 
no steps whatever were taken to reconnoitre, although 
means for this purpose, if not altogether adequate, were 
available in the shape of the strong force of mounted 
infantry under Colonel Hannay, which was with the divi- 
sion. Reconnaissance was again omitted, ostensibly on 
account of the complete exhaustion of the horses. 

The seventh division was to have remained at Wegdraai 
Drift, but the fifteenth brigade was despatched about 
noon, by order of the Commander-in-Chief, to occupy 
Jacobsdal, which was situated some four miles further to 
the north. It encountered there a Boer detachment, of 
about 200 men, which held the heights to the south of 
and commanding the town, and which was repulsed after 
a short resistance, the town being occupied by the British 
about three o'clock in the afternoon. The ninth division, 
accompanied by the Headquarter Staff, marched early on 



ISO RELIEF OF KIMBERLEY. [Ch.XIII. 

the 15th to Wegdraai Drift, where it remained until the 
i6th; the Headquarters moved on the latter date to 
Jacobsdal, where Lord Roberts inspected the German Red 
Cross Hospital attached to the Boer forces. He con- 
gratulated the medical of&cers in charge in imusually 
flattering terms on their excellent arrangements. 

The supply column, escorted by troops from the ninth 
division, had remained behind at Waterval Drift, and the 
teams were grazing near it on the river bank, while the 
drivers were either asleep or at breakfast. The escort 
had occupied the kopjes to the north-east of and com- 
manding the drift, but no steps whatever had been taken 
to reconnoitre properly. This enabled a body of 300 
or 4CX) Boers, with a Krupp and Maxim gun, under de 
Wet, to approach unperceived close to the hills where the 
escort was, and to open fire suddenly about 9 a.m. The 
animals stampeded, the drivers took to flight, and the 
escort defended itself behind the kopjes as well as it could 
This was the same detachment of Boers which had opposed 
French at Waterval Drift three days previously, and the 
penalty for having then completely lost touch with them 
was now to be a bitter one. Colonel Ridley tele- 
graphed to Headquarters for immediate reinforcements. 
Thereupon the fourteenth brigade, and the i8th and 62nd 
Field Batteries, which had just reached Wegdraai Drift, 
were ordered to return to Waterval Drift But these 
troops only arrived gradually, and were so exhausted by 
their marching and coimter-marching in the great heat, 
that they were scarcely fit for action, and when General 
Tucker arrived on the scene towards evening with the 
rest of the brigade, Colonel Ridley had already been 
obliged to evacuate his position with the loss of the 
entire supply colunm. Although the British had more 
than four times the numbers of the Boers, no attempt 
was made to recover the valuable booty, ostensibly because 



I90O.] BRITISH SUPPLIES CAPTURED. 151 

the approaching darkness, and the complete exhaustion of 
the men rendered the prospects of success hopeless, not- 
withstanding the fact that the enemy experienced great 
difficulty in getting the wagons away. General Tucker 
had express orders from Lord Roberts not to attempt 
to recover the train if this would cause much delay, in 
which case he was to return immediately. The whole 
brigade retired in the night in the direction of Wegdraai 
Drift, where it again arrived on the morning of February 
1 6th without serious loss. 

The capture of this column which resulted in the loss of 
200,ocx) rations, 48,000 portions of forage, and a quantity 
of cattle, might have had the most disastrous consequences 
for the success of the operations, for, besides the valuable 
means of subsistence for the army, a large portion of the 
general transport, which had been collected with so much 
difficulty, and at such expense, was lost The Headquarter 
Staff of the army itself was partly to blame for the occur- 
rence, by having laid down the strength of the escort, in 
response to tlie inquiry of the officer commanding the 
ninth division. But the want of initiative, and fear of 
responsibility, ^hown by the Staff of that division are 
also to blame for such a serious incident, because the 
Headquarter Staff had other and more important matters 
to think about, and could not supervise affairs on the spot 
so well as the ninth division. There is no doubt that 
the best protection for the supply column would have been 
found in making it march not on the right but on the 
left bank of the Riet River, especially as the veldt 
was passable everywhere, owing to the dry weather. 
If the train had taken this route on the evening of 
February 14th, then the ninth division, following the right 
bank early in the morning of February 15 th, would itself 
have formed the escort witlioui any further trouble. 
The ninth division could properly have taken this simple 



152 RELIEF OF KIMBERLEY. [Ch.XIII. 

Step on its own initiative without importuning the Head- 
quarter Staff with a question on the subject. The regret- 
table step taken by Lord Roberts in depriving the divi- 
sions of all their cavalry is also partly to blame for this 
misfortune ; it left them no possibility of reconnoitring, for 
the mounted infantry was not, especially at first, an efficient 
substitute. Owing to the loss of the train, with its eight 
days' supply of food for the army, and that of the 200 
wagons and their teams, which were yet far more valuable, 
it seemed a question whether the whole plan of operations 
would not have to be abandoned. 

Lord Roberts, on hearing of this misfortune, wished, at 
first, to postpone the further advance, but the rapidity 
with which he regained his mental equilibrium merits the 
utmost admiration. He received the brigade on its return 
not only without one word of reproach, but with friendly 
expressions of encouragement, and those around him failed 
altogether to discern in his cheerful demeanour the gravity 
of the situation. He immediately issued fresh instructions 
for the issue of supplies ; the entire force was placed on 
half rations, while the first division was ordered to load 
every cart, that could possibly be procured, with supplies, 
and to despatch them at once to Jacobsdal. This was 
done so quickly, that about ico wagons, carrying supplies 
for two and a-half day's for the whole army, reached that 
place on February 16th. All the engineer companies 
handed over their pontoon wagons, with their teams, in 
order to replace the carts which had been lost, but this 
measure, which was perhaps a desirable one, entailed 
disagreeable consequences for the ninth division at Paarde- 
berg, when the pontoons were urgently required for the 
passage of the Modder River. Thanlcs to the devoted 
energy of the officers of the Army Service Corps, who 
proved themselves fully equal to their task, it thus became 
possible to carry out the operations without a break. 



190O.] ARMY PLA CED ON HALF RA TIONS. I S 3 

The army remained on half rations until the end of 
February, and on three-quarter rations from that time until 
the entry into Bloemfontein. A very important order 
was also issued to the e£Eect that, in future, every man 
should carry two days rations, and a reserve ration, on his 
persoa It was not tmtil Bloemfontein was occupied that 
it became possible to issue full rations to the troops again, 
a double ration of meat being then given out in place of 
other provisions, which were wanting, as there was a suffi- 
cient and easily obtainable supply of cattle in the country 
itself. The horses of the cavalry division suffered most 
from the reduction in their forage, as they received only 8 
poimds of oats insfead of the regulation 14 poimds in 
spite of their altogether exceptional exertions. 

Under these very difficult conditions the new Head- 
quarter Sta£E had proved itself equal to the occasion in 
every respect, but the incident of February 15th again 
shows how dependent the operations of an army are on 
the safety of its commimications. It confirms impressively 
the old lesson of the necessity of always keeping a watch- 
ful eye on the rear, however much the attention may be 
concentrated towards the front It is impossible ever to 
study with sufficient care and detail the arrangements for 
the safety of the Lines of Communicatioa 



146 RELIEF OF KIMBERLEY. [Ch.XIII. 

artillery to form the first line, with 4 yards interval between 
each man, and to break through across the col in the 
direction of Kimberley. The second brigade, under 
Broadwood, was to follow in support in line at 500 yards 
distance, while the first brigade, under Porter, together 
with the remaining five batteries of horse artillery, which 
were to continue firing until the last possible moment, 
was to form the third line. 

The two leading brigades at once deployed, and the 
horsemen, who were soon veiled in dense clouds of dust, 
dashed into the enemy's fire, the divisional general riding 
at the head of the second brigade. The spectacle dis- 
played to the eyes of the sixth division was magnificent ; 
every man held his breath; the moment was one of the 
most extreme tension, for it seemed as if the result of the 
bold attempt must be the utter destruction of the gallant 
riders. It had, however, already succeeded before the 
spectators were really able to appreciate the fact After 
the dense clouds of dust, caused by the 6,000 horses, bad 
somewhat dispersed, the three brigades were seen to raOy 
nearly a mile beyond the enemy's position, and the road 
to Kimberley was open. It was marvellous that the divi- 
sion shotild have ridden almost without loss through the 
Boer fire; the casualties amounted to only one officer* 
and 15 men killed and wounded, together with about 
20 horses. The first line lost 15 killed and woundedL 
The remarkably small loss is explained chiefly by the great 
rapidity of the manoeuvre which completely surprised the 
adversary. The impression caused by the dashing mass of 
horsemen was such that some of the Boers took to flight 
before the cavalry had approached within effective rifle 
range. Those of the enemy, who held their groimd, fired 
for the most part too high in their excitement, especially 
as they had occupied, contrary to their usual custom, the 
summit of the heights and not their foot. The cavaky 



I90O.] RETREAT OF THE BOERS. 1 55 

River towards Bloemfontein with all the force in laager, 
which was from four to five thousand strong with six 
guns,* without waiting to collect the other Commandos 
which were scattered over a wide expanse. This plan 
was adopted, and the retreat commenced at 9 p.m. with 
women, children, and an immense quantity of baggage, 
in the direction of Koodoes Rand Drift,t in order to cross 
the Modder River at that point, and to march thence 
directly on Bloemfontein. Of all the lines of retreat still 
open to him this was the most unfavourable one, for it 
wotild cause him to march immediately along the front 
of the British army, which was superior in numbers, and 
of whose presence and position he had tolerably accurate 
information. It seems that the desire for an early junc- 
tion with the Boers in the north of Cape Colony decided 
the choice of this route, but the water question appears 
also to have had something to do with it ; only the shallow 
wells on the farms afforded drinkable water, and their 
number was quite inadequate for such masses of men, 
so that the Boers may have thought themselves boimd to 
the Modder River. But, if Cronje wished to carry out 
his intention successfully, he should have resolved to 
abandon the whole of his cumbrous train together with 
the women and children, and to have hurried on with his 
mobile horsemen, so as to try and escape the certain 
danger of being cut off from his line of retreat by an 
advance of the British, Such a step, however, was im- 
practicable in an army where every man thought first of 
his own property and of his wife and family. Cronje's 
march on the night of February 1 5th- 1 6th was protected 
by a strong rear-guard of 2,000 skilled riflemen, and the 
route lay about two miles from and along the front of the 
British sixth division in the direction of Drieput, while 
the pace was as rapid as the baggage would allow. 

* Four 3-inch Krupp guns and two Maxims. f Map 8. 



156 THE PURSUIT OF CRONJE. [Ch. XIV. 

This march was not noticed by the sixth division ; the 
squadron left behind at Abon's Dam declared, indeed, 
that it had ascertained in good time the departure of the 
Boers from the heights of Magersfontein, but, at any rate, 
it omitted to transmit this important intelligence to £he 
sixth division, which was next to it. It almost seemed 
as if Cronje's bold enterprise would succeed, and that 
the Boers would slip unperceived through the gap which 
existed between the cavalry and the sixth divisioa But, 
at sunrise on the 16th, vast clouds of dust leading 
in an easterly direction towards Drieput were observed 
from the outposts of the sixth division, where the ever 
indefatigable Lord Kitchener* also was. The Chief of 
the Staff saw at once that the situation, which was now 
completely altered, required that the army should move 
off immediately to its right in order to pursue the Boers. 
The conjecture that the enemy had marched in the night 
was confirmed by a report, received shortly afterwards from 
the mounted infantry, which had captured several Boers 
who had remained behind, and from whom exact in- 
formation as to Cronje's departure had been obtained. 

Lord Kitchener at once issued the necessary orders for 
the pursuit The mounted infantry, the thirteenth bri- 
gade, under Knox, which was at Klip Drift, and the 
divisional artillery were directed to pursue the enemy 
and to attack him resolutely, so as to hold him fast, and 



* Lord Kitchener, who was with the advanced troops, directed the opera- 
tions from February 15th to 19th. This was really the duty of Lieutenant- 
General Kelly-Kenny, who commanded the sixth division, as he was the 
senior both in rank and service, but Lord Roberts had arranged with him 
that, in the Commander-in-Chief's absence, all orders given by Lord 
Kitchener should be regarded as coming from Army Headquarters. " Lord 
Kitchener will accompany you in order to communicate my orders to you, 
so that no delay to the operations may arise."^£0r<f Roberts to Kelly-Kenny^ 
Feb, 17M.) The Headquarter Staff remained at Tacobsdal until the morning 
of Feb. 19th. Doubtless the Commander-in-Cnief would have hurried to 
the front at a time when every hour might necessitate the most important 
decbions, but he was unfortunately confined to bed just at this period by a 
aerioas indisposition. 



IQOO.] ACTION AT DRIEPUT. 157 

prevent his escape. The Chief of the Staff telegraphed 
the news of the Boer retreat to Headquarters; he also 
requested that the ninth division should be at once 
despatched to Klip Kraal Drift, and he suggested the 
cavalry division should bar the way against the retiring 
enemy. Lord Roberts, nevertheless, still clung to the 
primary objective, Kimberley, and thought, apparently, 
that Cronje's column was merely a small Commando. 
Therefore he ordered the ninth division, at midday on 
February i6th, to march in the direction of Kimberley, 
and it was not until he heard from Lord Methuen, at 
Modder River Station, that Cronje had evacuated the 
heights of Magersfontein that he ordered the army to 
march to its right, for which movement the ninth division 
was directed to send one brigade to Klip Drift and one 
to Klip Kraal Drift.* 

Kitchener, meanwhile, had at once taken up the pursuit 
of Cronje with the sixth division, and the artillery, which 
was hurrying on with the mounted infantry, opened fire 
about 7.30 a.m. on the retreating enemy from the heights 
situated about three miles to the north-east of Klip Drift 
The Boer rear-g^uard took up a position on the heights 
at Drieput The moimted infantry attacked immediately, 
but failed to throw back the adversary, who did not 
evacuate his position until about 11 a.m., after the 
thirteenth brigade and some mounted infantry had made 
a combined frontal and flank attack. Three battalions 
carried out the former, while the fourth battalion moved 
along the south bank, crossed the Modder River with the 
mounted infantry not far from Drieput Drift, and advanced 
against the Boer leftt The Boers turned repeatedly on 
their pursuers, retreated to a position north-west of Klip 
Kraal Drift, which they occupied strongly about 2 p.m., 

• See Appendix V. 
t Many horses were drowned on this occasion. 



158 THE PURSUIT OF CRONJE. [Ch. XIV, 

and held their ground until darkness set in, notwithstand- 
ing the repeated efforts made by the British to dislodge 
them. Thanks to the stout resistance offered by their 
rear-guard, it had now become possible for the Boers, 
together with all their baggage, to escape the threatened 
danger in the first place, and, secondly, to continue their 
retreat in an easterly direction along the north bank of 
the Modder River. The English loss, on this occasion, 
amounted to 6 officers, and 119 men killed and wounded, 
while that of the defenders is said to have been only 
trifling. The thirteenth brigade, together with the artillery 
and mounted infantry, bivouacked not far from the battle- 
field, and the troops ate the da/s ration, which they had 
with them, as the baggage had been kept back at Klip 
Drift with the eighteenth brigade. During, the course of 
the day this brigade took possession at Bosjespan of an 
abandoned Boer laager, where there were foimd 78 carts, 
laden with supplies, and a quantity of ammimition. Lord 
Kitchener, who had accompanied the thirteenth brigade 
in the morning, returned to KUp Drift at 5 p.m., in order 
to arrange for the further pursuit of Cronje; the 
eighteenth brigade was to march from Klip Drift during 
the night so as to effect a junction, early on the 17th, 
with the thirteenth brigade at Khp Kraal Drift, while the 
mounted infantry and the artillery were to keep in touch 
with the enemy, and to bar his road, if possible, at 
Paardeberg Drift. 

The Chief of the Staff informed General French of the 
change in the situation by means of an officer's patrol, 
and requested him to march that night with the cavalry 
division, in order to place himself in front of the retreat- 
ing Boers at Koodoes Rand Drift A telegram to the 
same effect was also despatched from Headquarters at 
Jacobsdal vid Modder River Station to General French, 
but owing to an accident this message only reached him 




I90O,] CAVALRY AT DRON FIELD, 1 59 

some days afterwards; another proof of the necessity of 
always sending important orders of this description in 
duplicate by two different routes. If Lord Kitchener at 
Klip Drift had not informed General French of the state 
of affairs, the cavalry division could not have taken part 
in the pursuit of Cronje, who would then, probably, have 
succeeded in escaping. 

The first and third cavalry brigades,* and the mounted 
infantry had conmienced, on February i6th, the pursuit 
of the investing force in a northerly direction towards 
Macfarlane's Station, the idea being to capture the train, 
and the heavy guns of the Boers. The rear-guard of the 
latter offered a stout resistance at Dronfield, where several 
hot fights took place, none of which, however, resulted in 
any advantage for the British. Notwithstanding consider- 
able superiority in numbers the cavalry, which fought dis- 
mounted, was unable to drive off the Boer rear-guard, 
although, according to a reliable source, this does not seem 
to have consisted of more than a hundred men, while there 
were, at one time, not less than 24 English guns in actioa 

Neither of the cavalry brigades achieved anything what- 
ever on this extremely hot and tiring day, which caused 
extraordinary loss of horse-flesh; sunstroke destroyed 
hundreds of animals^ as there was no water available, the 
Boers having rendered the few wells unserviceable. 

In consequence of the great loss in dead and unfit 
horses, the two brigades returned in the evening to Kim- 
berley in as weak a state as if they had ridden in a 
deadly charge, and neither of them could be employed 
again for some days. During the period from February 
1 2th to February 17th the cavalry division had more 
than i,6cxD horses tmable to march, which had to be left 
behind at Klip Drift or Kimberley, that is to say, the 

* Of the first brigade most of the Carabineers were left to guard the 
bivouac ground. 



l6o THE PURSUIT OF CRONJE, [Ch. XIV. 

establishment of horses was reduced by about 25 per 
cent owing to excessive exertions and want of proper 
care.* The horses were so exhausted that in one regiment, 
which was very well mounted on the nth, only 28 were 
able to trot when mustered on the 17th. In spite of 
the utmost care few of the animals recovered altogether from 
the exertions of that day. But, besides the fact that the 
cavalry, notwithstanding all its sacrifices, had achieved 
absolutely nothing, its employment on February i6th was 
unfortunate, although the imtiring energy and initiative of 
the cavalry commander is deserving of the highest recogni- 
tion After Kimberley had been relieved, the pursuit of 
the weak investing force was not the next and most im- 
portant duty of the cavalry division, attractive as it might 
be to try and catch it ; the object of all further operations 
ought to have been the destruction of the main body of 
the enemy under Cronje; to prevent his escape was the 
business of the cavalry division, and a more important 
task than to capture the trains of the weak investing 
Commandos. 

The second cavalry brigade, under General Broadwood, 
had remained to the south of Kimberley with instructions 
to reconnoitre in the direction of Magersfontein. When 
General French returned to Kimberley, he heard from 
Broadwood that a large column of Boers, with guns and 
numerous carts, had moved in an easterly direction from 
the heights of Magersfontein and that the country to the 
south of Kimberley was quite clear of the enemy. Shortly 
afterwards the message from Lord Kitchener, which has 
been already mentioned, arrived, confirming this intelli- 
gence, and Broadwood's Brigade was thereupon ordered 
to march with Q and R Batteries of the Horse Artillery at 
3.30 a.m. on February 17th by Olifantsfontein, where 

• On February i6th the 6rst and third brigades were dismissed before 
their horses had been watered and fed. 




igoo.] CRONJE*S NIGHT MARCH. l6l 

two squadrons of the Carabineers from the first brigade 
were to join it, to Koodoes Rand Drift. The remaining 
two brigades, being unfit to march, had to be left behind 
at Kimberley for the time being, the third brigade, imder 
Gordon, being directed to follow the second on February 
1 8th if able to do so. Colonel Porter was appointed com- 
mandant of Kimberley. 

During the night of February 1 6th- 17th Cronje 
attempted to evade his pursuers by means of a forced 
march; unperceived by the moimted infantry, under 
Colonel Hannay, who had been specially charged with 
the duty of keeping in touch with the enemy, the Boer 
rear-guard evacuated its position on the heights north- 
west of Klip Kraal Drift, and the retreat was continued, 
immolested, by Paardeberg towards Koodoes Rand Drift, 
where the south bank of the Modder River was to be 
gained. When Cronje reached Wolves Kraal Drift about 
8 a.m., he thought he was safe from his pursuers, and 
ordered a rest of several hours' duration, as the men and 
animals were completely exhausted by the iminterrupted 
marching and fighting of the preceding 36 hours. Com- 
mandant Fronemann was directed to occupy the kopjes 
overlooking the ford at Koodoes Rand with a strong 
advanced g^ard. 

The Modder River is about 60 yards broad, and flows 
between steep banks, some 15 yards in height, at the spot 
selected for the halt, the banks themselves being covered 
with thick mimosa and other bush, 200 or 300 yards 
wide in places, and affording excellent cover. The camp 
was pitched on the north bank near Wolves Kraal Drift. 
The river makes a sharp bend to the south about two miles 
to the west of the laager, and a rather deep and 
narrow watercourse, coming from the north, joins the 
Modder River at that point This watercourse was 
dry at the time, and its banks were very thickly 

M 



162 THE PURSUIT OF CRONJE. [Ch. XIV, 

covered with every description of bush and undergrowth. 
It formed the western portion of the Boer position, and 
was occupied by the rear-guard under Commandant Pot- 
gieter. A hill, which rises to a height of 150 feet above 
the river bed, is situated about a mile to the north-west 
of this position, and was called afterwards Signal Hill, 
while another eminence on the south bank, some 3,3CX> 
yards to the south of the bend, was named Gun HilL 
Paardeberg Hill, 650 feet high, lies to the west of Signal 
Hill and commands all the surrounding country. 

Numerous small watercourses, which were dry at the 
time, but covered with thick undergrowth, joined the 
Modder River at right angles from the north and south 
about 1,600 yards east of the laager, while a hill about 
400 feet in height, and two or two and a-half miles to the 
south of the camp, rising from the otherwise level country 
commands all the neighbouring region, and was afterwards 
called Kitchener's Kopje. The ground on both banks 
of the river was open, and gently sloping for a distance 
of from 1,100 to 1,600 yards, and was covered here and 
there with small ant hills from 12 to 16 inches high, 
which afforded only very slight cover. 

Cronje continued his march towards noon, and the 
Modder River was to be crossed at Koodoes Rand and 
Wolves Kraal Drifts. The leading cart was just approach- 
ing the last-named ford, when several shells fell altogether 
unexpectedly close to tlie wagons, and were immediately 
followed by others. Great confusion arose, and the 
heights north of the drift towards Kameelfontein seemed to 
be lined by an immense force of artillery. Every man took 
to his heels, and the moment was one of uncontrollable 
disorder. To continue the march appeared to be im- 
possible, and Cronje believed that the British infantry 
had already outstripped the Boer army, for he calculated 
that the cavaby division, of whose galling fighting on the 




I900.] FRENCH STOPS CRONJE. 1 63 

previous day, nearly 20 miles to the north of Kimberley 
he had already heard, could by no possibility now be on 
the Modder River ; therefore, it must be English infantry 
which was in front of him. 

It was, nevertheless, the indefatigable General French, 
who, by his own energy, had accomplished the seemingly 
impossible. Contrary to the opinion of his brigadiers, 
who had declared that the complete exhaustion of the men 
and horses rendered all action on February 17th out ol 
the question, he had left Kimberley about 4 a.m. with 
the second brigade,* two squadrons of the Carabineers,t 
and the horse artillery batteries. In spite of the g^eat 
heat, and notwithstanding the fact that no water was to 
be found during the march, he reached Kameelfontein, 
nearly four miles north of Wolves Kraal Drift, towards 
II a.m. The patrols, which had been sent towards 
Paardeberg and Koodoes Rand Drifts had noticed clouds 
of dust in the valley of the river, which were moving in 
an easterly direction, but it was not certain whether they 
were formed by the enemy's columns or by the British 
troops. General French halted at Kameelfontein to water 
the horses, and he himself utilised this period of repose- 
to reconnoitre personally in the direction of Koodoes Rand. 
Drift and the Modder River. He had scarcely ridden a 
thousand yards on to the heights south of Kameelfontein, 
when he saw the whole Boer laager, reposing peacefully 
in the valley in front of him. The moment was one of 

• The marching out strength of this brigade on February 17th was: — 

Household Cavalry 27 ofificers 371 men 

loth Hussars 23 „ 321 

I2th Lancers 19 „ 258 

2 Squadrons Carabineers ... 13 „ 182 



If 



Total 82 „ 1,132 

And two batteries R.H.A. of 6 guns each. 



M 



t One squadron of this regiment was sent to reconnoitre in a north- 
easterly direction towards Boshof, to locate the Boers against whom the 
cavalry division had been in action on the previous day. 

M 3 



1 64 THE PURSUIT OF CRONJE. [Ch. XIV. 

the most extreme tensioa He at once ordered the two 
batteries of horse artillery to open fire on the Boer laager 
at about 3,3CX) yards range from the river. As French had 
arrived exactly at the time when Cronje was going to 
resume his march, the latter sent his guns to take up a 
position on some high groimd near the river to reply to 
the British artillery; a strong detachment of Boers also 
moved simultaneously against the right flank of the 
English guns, but it was kept off by the loth Hussars, 
who occupied a small but commanding hill on the right 
of their guns in order to protect them. Two squadrons 
of the regiment attempted to charge these Boers late in 
the afternoon, so as to throw them back into the valley 
of the river, and also to ascertain whether there was a 
strong force there. But, when they arrived within 6cx> 
or 700 yards from the enemy, they had to wheel about, 
as their horses were too exhausted to make a resolute 
attack; the squadrons themselves lost several men killed 
and woimded 

The situation was more difficult for the British on their 
left wing; as soon as his guns had come into action. 
General French had himself directed the 12th Lancers 
to occupy the heights of Koodoes Rand Drift, situated to 
the east of the batteries, and also the Drift itself, but the 
lancers reported that both the heights and the ford were 
strongly held by the enemy. This was the Boer advanced 
guard, imder Fronemann, which had been sent to Koodoes 
Rand, and which then advanced to attack, its artillery fire 
reaching as far as Kameelfontein Farm. It was only 
with difficulty that the lancers, reinforced by the House- 
hold Cavalry, succeeded in keeping off the enemy on that 
wing. It was a critical time; the English commander 
looked anxiously towards the west for the expected 
infantry reinforcement from Klip Drift so ardently longed 
for, but nothing was visible on the horizon, and it almost 




I90O.] VALUE OF CAVALRY, 165 

seemed as if the superior Boer force would prove victorious. 
If the Boers had realised how few troops were in front 
of them, Cronje could have continued his march. The 
hot hours of the afternoon passed slowly by, full of tor- 
turing imcertainty, when, at last, as the sim was settings 
thick clouds of dust became visible far away on the horizon 
towards Paardeberg, and heralded the approaching help. 
Everybody breathed more freely, and the strength 
of the handful of dismounted horsemen received new 
life. 

It was owing- to the gallant perseverance of the British 
cavalry, and to the heavier and more effective fire of the 
batteries, that a further and victorious advance of the 
Boers against the left flank was prevented, and that 
the whole Boer army was stopped for an entire day 
by scarcely more than a thousand dismounted cavalry- 
men. This was a very remarkable achievement, and it 
shows what cavalry fighting on foot can do when properly 
used, and of what incalculable value great masses of 
cavalry, trained in dismounted action, may be through- 
out a whole campaign. The capture of Cronje was 
chiefly due to the ability with which the cavalry divi- 
sion was handled, and to the skill of its gallant and 
resolute commander. If French had not delayed the 
Boer army for a whole day, Cronje would probably have 
succeeded in escaping from his pursuers on account of 
the great start which he had gained on the sixth British 
division by his night march of February 1 6th- 17th, and 
he would also, in all Ukelihood, have collected reinforce- 
ments from all sides before the decisive battle. 

It is not possible to draw a clear picture of the em- 
ployment and tactics of the cavalry, when fighting on 
foot, from what has hitherto been published on the sub- 
ject It appears, however, that the cavalry, imitating the 
Boer tactics, which had been so successful, was widely 



l66 THE PURSUIT OF CRONJE. [Ch. XIV. 

scattered in groups on all the kopjes and small eminences, 
while the led horses were placed imder cover immediately 
in rear of their respective groups. This method of dis- 
motmted action for cavalry is unquestionably a very good 
one, and worthy of imitation, for a great extension of 
front, when smokeless powder is used, may easily deceive 
the enemy as to the force which is in front of him. The 
increased power of the modem rifle favours a stout 
defence, and will render a decrease in the depth of 
formations all the less hazardous, because in engagements, 
such as the one just described, it will generally be more 
important to make the enemy halt than to fight a decisive 
action. The combats of the English cavalry division on 
February i6th and February 17th are of quite extra- 
ordinary value in this respect When, on the former 
date, it endeavoured to fight a decisive action, and, by 
attacking the enemy, to drive him out of his strong 
position on the heights of Dronfield, it showed itself 
unequal to the task; on the other hand, when, on the 
17th, it was merely a question of a stubborn defence 
in order to stop the adversary, the cavalry carried out 
its duty in a brilliant manner, and rendered incalculable 
service. , . 

The fire of both sides slackened gradually when dark- 
ness fell, whereupon the Boer riflemen returned to their 
laager, but the sound of several artillery salvoes pene- 
trated far during the stillness of the night, and annoimced 
to the approaching infantry that General French had 
succeeded in keeping the enemy at bay at Koodoes Rand. 
Cronje's fate appeared to be sealed The British infantry 
was hurriedly coming up ; the sixth division, which was 
immediately following the Boers, had marched at 3.30 a.m. 
on the 17 th from Klip Drift with its eighteenth brigade, 
and had joined the thirteenth brigade at Klip Kraal Drift 
soon after daybreak; it then continued its march on 



1900.] ARRIVAL OF SIXTH DIVISION. 1 6/ 

the south bank of the Modder River towards Brand- 
wallei Drift, which it reached about lo a.m. It moved 
thence at 5 p.m. and marched for the greater portion of 
the night in the general direction of Koodoes Rand Drift 
It was not known where the Boer army was, touch with 
it having been lost* owing to the carelessness of the 
mounted infantry during the night of February 1 6th- 17th. 
General Kelly-Kenny took advantage of a long halt, 
shortly before simrise, to ride on to a hill situated to 
the left front of the division, which afforded a view 
towards the Modder River. When day began to break 
he suddenly perceived to his intense astonishment, first 
indistinctly, and then more and more clearly as the light 
became brighter, a large Boer laager gleaming in the 
simlight a few thousand yards in front of him. He and 
his Staff were on the so-called Gun Hill opposite to 
Wolves Kraal Drift; the great exertions which he had 
demanded from his troops were rewarded ; he had suc- 
ceeded in overtaking Cronje, and his division was to the 
south of and not far from the laager. 

Meanwhile the ninth division had also come up ; its 
nineteenth brigade had marched from Jacobsdal to Klip 
Drift in the night of February i6th-i7th, while its High- 
land Brigade, marching across country, had reached Klip 
Kraal Drift. Lord Kitchener had then ordered the 
division to continue its march to Paardeberg Drift about 
5 p.m on February 17th; the Highland Brigade arrived 
there towards eleven o'clock at night, but the nineteenth 
brigade did not get there until a quarter-past four on 
the morning of the iStli. In spite of short rations, and 
of the great heat, the division had marched nearly 31 
miles in less than 24 hours, a performance of the very 



• The mounted infantry had, it is true, heard the guns of the cavalrr 
division, but appears to have thought that the Utter was only engaged with 
the enemy's rear-guard. 



1 68 THE PURSUIT OF CRONJE. [Ch. XIV. 

first order, which is still further enhanced by the fact 
that there were very few stragglers.* 

The mounted infantry had likewise come up with 
Cronje's laager, on the evening of the 17th, without be- 
coming aware of the fact When its commander ref>orted 
to Lord Kitchener, who arrived at Klip Kraal Drift in 
the early hours of February 17th, that he had lost touch 
with the enemy during the night, the Chief of the Staff 
at once assimied command in person of the mounted 
infantry. Regardless of man and beast the troops marched 
the whole day towards the sound of the cavalry division 
gfuns, but without discovering the Boers, and, when dark- 
ness set in, the utterly exhausted men and horses 
bivouacked some thousands of yards to the east of Paarde- 
berg Drift It was not until daybreak on February i8th 
that Lord Kitchener, who had ridden forward to recon- 
noitre, saw that he had overtaken Cronje. With his 
wonted energy he issued orders for an immediate attack 
with the troops on the spot, after he had completed his 
reconnaissance of the Boer position. 

General Cronje became convinced, early on February 
18th, that there was no longer any chance of escape, and 
he made arrangements to strengthen the position, in which 
he found himself, as much as possible, and to prepare 
for a stubborn defence. Had he been aware that only a 
small portion of the cavalry division was opposed to him 
on the 17th, he would, tmdoubtedly, have endeavoured 
to escape during the night of February 17th- 18th, 
especially as a messenger from Commandant Ferreira 
reached him on the 17th, who advised him to abandon 
the women, children, and tlie whole of his baggage, and 
to break through with his men towards the north or the 



• The Naval Brigade also made a splendid inarch with its ship's guns 
(four 4*7 inch and four 12-pounders), for it covered the distance irom 
Jacobsdal to Paardeberg, a distance of nearly 31 miles, in 23 hours. 




I900.] SUPPLY AND TRANSPORT. 1 69 

east, and join hands with the commandant Cronje, 
however, could not reconcile himself to this course. 

While all these preliminaries to the decisive struggle on 
the Modder River were gomg on, the Headquarter Staff 
remained at Jacobsdal engaged in reorganising the 
arrangements for the Lines of Communication Im- 
portant and drastic changes were made in them ; hitherto 
the transport and supply services had been united under 
one head, but they were now separated, each being placed 
directly under the Commander-in-Chief, and that this 
measure was a very sound one was proved by the result. 
Its sole disadvantage was that numerous 3issensions 
resulted among the supply and transport officers respec- 
tively. The former wished to overload the carts, so as 
to push forward as large a quantity of supplies as possible 
at one time. The transport officers, on the other hand, 
required that the loads should be as small as possible in 
order to keep the teams efficient. Notwithstanding this 
initial friction, however, it became possible, thanks to the 
intelligent and devoted zeal of all the departments con- 
cerned, always to keep pace with the enormous difficulties, 
which multiplied daily on account of the ever increasing 
length of the communications. Apart from the short crisis 
in supply, already alluded to, an army has seldom been so 
well provided imder equally difficult conditions as was the 
British army in the South African war. Lord Kitchener 
was of opinion that the army in South Africa was better 
supplied than ever before. The supplies, both local and 
imported, were always very good when issued. 

In this respect the broadmindedness, foresight, and 
practical sense of the British race showed themselves in 
a high degree; accustomed as it has been for centuries 
to deal with local and financial conditions on a great 
scale, the officers and officials were able to supervise with 
certainty, and to overcome successfully all those difficulties. 



170 THE PURSUIT OF CRONJE. [Ch. XIV. 

which were due to the extensive theatre of war, so 
different in every respect from the conditions in England, 
especially with regard to the question of the supply of 
the army. With sure and rapid grasp, Lord Roberts 
remedied the deficiencies which had shown themselves in 
the army, and provided it with an organisation suitable 
to the peculiar theatre of war, while actually in the field. 

The Headquarter Staff left Jacobsdal for the Modder 
River early on February igth. Lord Roberts had 
previously ordered Lord Methuen to get the railway from 
Modder River Station to Kimberley into working order 
at once, and to move with his troops to the latter place. 
The Brigade of Guards, imder Pole-Carew, which had 
hitherto formed part of the first division, was subordinated 
immediately to the Commander-in-Chief, in order to 
take part in the operations on the Modder River, 
and it moved, therefore, early on February i8th from 
Modder River Station to Klip Drift to join the 
other divisions at Paardeberg. Lord Methuen's com- 
mand now consisted of the ninth brigade, imder Major- 
General Douglas, i,ooo men of the Imperial Yeomanry, 
the 20th and 38th Field Batteries, two Canadian Field 
Batteries, and one New South Wales Field Battery. 

It was intended to strengthen this force later by another 
infantry brigade, consisting of three militia battalions, 
which had not yet reached Cape Town from England 

Kimberley became the main depot after Lord Methuen's 
arrival there on February 22nd, and all the supplies at 
De Aar, Orange River Station, and Modder River Station 
were transferred to that place. Lord Methuen was also 
charged with the duty of protecting the communications 
of the army advancing on Bloemfontein. 



igoo.] 171 



CHAPTER XV. 

Comments on the Relief of Kimberley and the 

Pursuit of Cronje. 

The enei^ of the new British Commander-in-Chief, 
and the endurance of the troops in tmdergoing exertions, 
and in supporting privations, were very clearly shown 
during the operations from Graspan to Paardeberg. 

It is dif&cult to criticise exhaustively and correctly 
either the plan of these operations, or the manner in 
which they were carried out, because too little is known 
as yet of what went on at Headquarters. There is, 
especially, a want of knowledge, for the time being, as 
to how far the political situation, and, above all, public 
opinion in England, which wanted Kimberley to be 
relieved as quickly as possible, influenced the conduct of 
the Commander-in-Chief, but, regarded from a purely 
military point of view, the carrying out of the operations 
does not appear to have been altogether faultless. 

The relief of Kimberley was, of course, the first objective 
in order to secure an assured base for the advance on 
Bloemfontein. But this could not exercise a decisive in- 
fluence on the military situation as a whole, and especially 
on the conduct of the further operations, unless the Boer 
forces at Magersfontein, which were covering the siege 
should first of all have been destroyed. If this should 



172 COMMENTS ON PURSUIT OF CRONJE, Ere. [Ch.XV. 

happen, then Kimberley would also be relieved. It seems, 
however, that Lord Roberts was shy of attacking the 
strong position at Magersfontein, and that the far reaching 
movement against the flank and rear of the enemy was 
intended rather to out-manceuvre him from his position, 
and so to open the way to Kimberley, than to be the 
precursor of a decisive battle. In support of this assump- 
tion is the fact that the Commander-in-Chief clung to 
Kimberley as the objective, even after the relief, and after 
he had already heard of the retreat of Cronje on Bloem- 
fontein. The despatch of the cavalry division to Kim- 
berley affords fiurther corroboration, for its first aim ought 
to have been not Kimberley, but the reconnaissance of 
the Boers on the heights of Magersfontein, and the task 
of preventing their retreat until the infantry should come 
up. The place of the cavalry division, therefore, was not 
at Kimberley in the first instance, espedally as the relief 
of the town was by no means urgent,* but in the region 
between the Modder River and Kimberley, somewhere 
towards Abon's Dam. 

The design of the Commander-in-Chief merely to 
manoeuvre Cronje out of his position was not in accord- 
ance with modem views on war. For if Cronje actually 
evacuated the heights of Magersfontein in consequence 
of his flank being threatened, so that Kimberley could 
be relieved, the general military situation would not have 
gained much, apart from the moral effect, from the mere 
possession of that city. There was nothing to justify the 
hope of Lord Roberts that he would be able later to force 
Cronje to fight a decisive battle under conditions more 
unfavourable to the latter. That this was actually the 
case afterwards was solely Cronje's fault, and the British 
Commander-in-Chief, when planning the operations, could 

* The Commandant had heliographed to Headquarters at the beginnio|r 
of Februarj that he could certainly hold out until the end of the month. 



I900.] STRATEGY AND TACTICS. 1 73 

at no time have reckoned with certainty on this contin- 
gency, nor should he have done so. For if Cronje had 
retreated on Bloemfontein in time, then the decisive battle, 
which would have been merely postponed, must have been 
fought before the entry into that capital, probably under 
very much more dif&cult conditions, for the Boer com- 
mander could then have collected numerous reinforcements 
from all sides, and have accepted battle when and where 
he pleased. Meanwhile, however, the British, with their 
great superiority in numbers, had their best chance of 
surprising the Boer forces, which were dispersed over a 
wide area, and of inflicting a decisive defeat on Cronje, 
notwithstanding his strong position at Magersfontein. 

Had Cronje moved off in a north-easterly direction, 
somewhere towards Boshof, he would have been on the 
flank of the English, and would have threatened their 
further advance on Bloemfontein, which could not have 
been continued until he should have been defeated But 
this would have entailed the British operations being 
diverted into quite another and unwished for direction. 

Even assuming, however, that the original intention of 
the British Commander-in-Chief had really been to force 
Cronje to fight a decisive battle to the south of Kimberley, 
and to take the first steps towards surrounding the Boers 
by the march from Graspan to Klip Drift, the group- 
ing of the British forces was not a happy one for the 
purpose. It is a well known fact that, in order to sur- 
round an enemy, he must be attacked energetically in 
front; otherwise it will always remain open to the de- 
fender to reinforce his threatened flank, and to prevent 
himself from being encompassed either by prolonging 
his front or by a timely withdrawal Very much stronger 
forces, therefore — two divisions at least — ought to have 
been left at Modder River Camp, with the express object 
of holding Cronje fast in his position by means of a 



174 COMMENTS ON PURSUIT OF CRONJE, Etc. [Ch.XV. 

frontal attack, until he should have been eflFectually sur- 
rounded But the first division allowed Cronje to march 
quietly away without making even an effort to stop him, 
and all this corroborates the idea that the Commander- 
in-Chief had no intention whatever of first destroying 
Cronje's force, and then relieving Kimberley. It is due 
less to the plan of operations, and the manner in which 
it was carried out, than to the errors committed by the 
adversary, that the result was ultimately so successful for 
the British. General Cronje was a brave soldier, but in 
no way fitted for his high position, as was acknowledged 
by the Boers themselves when it was too late. The 
system of command in the Boer army occasioned predica- 
ments which are possible only in a militia army, and the 
bitter experiences^ which the Boers were destined to 
undergo, afford an instructive warning for all adherents 
of such a system. 

During the advance towards the Modder River the 
English divisions were often so far apart from one another 
as to offer several favourable opportunities to an enter- 
prising adversary to defeat them in detail The sixth 
division in its advanced position at Klip Drift on February 
iSth, as well as the weak and isolated first division at 
Modder River Camp from the i ith to the iSth of February, 
are instances in point. As it was possible for the divi- 
sions to march at any time, and in any direction across 
the open veldt, it would have been a simple matter to 
arrange the marches so that a concentration could have 
been effected at any time. It would certainly have been 
difficult to provide the troops with sufficient water, but 
this difficulty could have been overcome by advancing on 
both banks of the Riet River, which might be crossed at 
niunerous drifts. 

On the other hand the operations for the pursuit and 
investment of Cronje afford splendid proof of the energy 



1900.] NIGHT MARCHES. 1 75 

and resolution of the Commander-in-Chief, of the intelli- 
gent co-operation and initiative of all the subordinate 
generals, and of the devotion of the troops in cheerfully 
undergoing exertion and privatioa The history of those 
days is a page of glory in the chronicles of the British 
army, and every true soldier will unreservedly acknow- 
ledge this to be the case. 

The numerous night marches are the most striking 
feature of the movements of troops, and they are to be 
attributed substantially to two causes, namely, the great 
heat, and the very proper endeavour not to let go of the 
enemy. Those night marches, however, which were under- 
taken exclusively on account of the great heat by day, 
were not very fortunate eflForts, according to the almost 
unanimous verdict of those who took part in them. 
According to General Colvile, who commanded the ninth 
division, they affected the troops out of all proportion to 
their length, especially as the men, who had no tents, 
were unable to get sufficient repose in the blazing summer 
heat These night marches also lasted very much longer 
than one of equal length by day would have done, on 
accoimt of the bad roads and the darloiess; it also 
happened frequently that the troops lost their way alto- 
gether, and had to remain inactive on the veldt tmtil 
daylight, in order to regain their route. Marching at 
night was, therefore, on several occasions a sheer waste 
of timq. 

General Colvile has given the following as the result 
of his numerous experiences concerning marches by day 
and by night during his Colonial campaigns : " The best 
results were obtained when we moved off at daybreak, 
and marched steadily for 14 miles, making a long halt 
for a meal when the greater part of the distance had been 
covered; when possible, however, the troops marched 
direct to the new bivouac" The German field service 



176 COMMENTS ON PURSUIT OF CRONJE, Etc. [Ch.XV. 

regulations also enunciate these principles, the truth of 
which was also shown under the different conditions of 
the South African theatre of war. 

Notwithstanding the extraordinary exertions, due to 
the climatic conditions, scanty supplies just at that time, 
and the frequently recurring want of repose at night, the 
number of men belonging to the infantry who fell out was 
relatively small. The units arrived almost up to their 
marching out strength for the battle on the i8th of 
February, and this is certainly an eloquent proof of the 
endurance of the British soldiers at that period. 

The results of the great exertions were more serious 
for the cavalry. Its enormous loss in horses* is to be 
ascribed to several causes, such as scarcity of forage and 
water, bad horse management, indifferent discipline on 
the march,t and the fact that the troops had arrived in 
a new climate, out of condition after their long journey 
by sea and rail. But of all the unfavourable circum- 
stances the most detrimental one was, in the opinion of 
everybody who was with the cavalry during that exhaust- 
ing period. General French's custom of moving off 
in the night, without its being possible to first water 
and feed the horses properly. This habit cost the lives 
of many horses of the first and third brigades on February 
1 6th. The fact of the men and animals having been much 
exhausted by the want of sufficient rest at night explains 
also, in part, the very poor reconnaissance results which 
were obtained during this period The approach of the 

* The cavalry division had to leave 326 horses behind at Klip Drift, and 
597 at Kimberley, as unfit to march ; 558 horses were dead or missine, and 
139 were sick. But the greatest loss of horseflesh did not occur until after 
Paardeberg. 

t The German Military Attach^ with the British army wrote that " the 
omission on the part of the officers and non-6ommissioned officers of the 
cavalry to interfere energetically in order to maintain proper discipline in 
marching and riding was most destructive. The reason for the large number 
of galled horses became at once apparent, on seeing the men lolling on their 
saddles in the most careless manner.'' 




I900.] RECONNAISSANCE. 1 77 

enemy was seldom observed in good time, and, after con- 
tact had been established, touch was invariably lost with 
him, the capture of the supply column on February 15 th 
being the bitter penalty for this neglect The cavalry 
division, from the very beginning, made no reconnaissance 
far in advance of the army, but contented itself with 
reconnoitring the ground close at hand, and immediately 
to the front As a reconnoitring body, therefore, the 
cavalry division was practically useless during the period 
in question, noteworthy as were its services in action. 
Experience had shown that to send isolated and weak 
patrols a long distance was of little use, in view of the di£&- 
culties in the way of scouting caused by the modern rifle. 
The Boers used, as a rule, to allow these patrols to 
approach close to them, and they then shot them down; 
while the smokeless powder rendered it rarely possible 
to ascertain correctly the strength of an enemy in position, 
the far ranging rifle often necessitated long circuits round 
the flank and rear, whereby the reports were frequently 
very much delayed In addition it was most dif&cult for 
the patrols to find their way about in the strange and 
monotonous country. 

All these difiiculties, however, are a fresh proof that 
the despatch of isolated and so-called " strategical " patrols 
far to the front will never of itself ensure a thorough 
and timely reconnaissance ; for this purpose a carefully 
organised, far reaching system of reconnoitring is re- 
quired, such as is described in the German field service 
regulations for advanced squadrons, reconnoitring squad- 
rons, and the strong officers' patrols which are pushed 
far out in front Individual men, who merely ride about 
or who approach an enemy already in position will rarely 
attain their object. Under such circumstances cavalry will 
have to fight on foot in order to reconnoitre thoroughly, 
and for this purpose the employment of strong detach- 

N 



178 COMMENTS ON PURSUIT OF CRONJE, Etc. [Ch.XV. 

ments will be necessary. If they be skilfully handled, 
and widely extended in small groups, they will thus be 
able most quickly to ascertain, at least approximately, 
the strength and dispositions even of an adversary already 
in position, provided the topographical conditions be in 
some degree favourable. 

The fact that the British Commander-in-Chief had not 
informed even the divisional commanders of his inten- 
tions and plans, with the very proper intention of keeping 
these secret from the enemy, has already been mentioned ; 
it is, however, open to question whether he did not go 
too far in this directioa Lieut-General Kelly-Kenny, 
a leader of more than ordinary military ability, did 
not grasp the whole situation on February 15th; 
otherwise it would have been inconceivable that he 
should have remained inactive on the Modder River 
throughout the entire day, without sending his moimted 
infantry to reconnoitre towards Magersfontein, where 
the main body of the Boers was still known to be ; had 
he been aware of the plan of campaign he must have 
known in time of Cronje's departure, and he could have 
barred his way by simply advancing in the direction of 
Abon's Dam. By these means the result which was only 
secured several days later by the army moving to its right, 
pursuing the Boers in galling actions, and at the cost of 
heavy sacrifices and exertions on the part of the troops, 
would have been attained on the evening of the 15th. 
The sixth division was to blame for having allowed 
Cronje to slip unperceived through the gap which 
had been left between the cavalry and itself; it 
ought to have reconnoitred with more energy on the 
15 th, and to have closed the gap with a portion of its 
infantry, however exhausted the latter might have been. 



1900.] 179 



CHAPTER XVL 
Lord Kitchener decides on an immediate attack. 

When General Cronje recognised that escape was no 
longer possible, he issued instructions, as has been already 
mentioned, at dawn on February i8th, for the strengthen, 
ing of his position in the valley of the river. The Boer 
laager was situated at Wolves Kraal Drift on both 
banks of the Modder River, which was shallow and about 
sixty yards broad at that point, and it was between 
that drift and Paardeberg Drift that the fighting took 
place on February i8tik The Boer riflemen, concealed 
by the bush, were widely extended along the banks on 
both sides of the river in a ciirious position. There were 
small and dried up watercourses on its flanks, situated 
about two or three thousand yards to the east and west of 
the laager, and these were very strongly held ; with their 
thick, low undergrowth they afforded excellent natural 
cover most favourable for defence. The distribution of 
the Boer forces in the position, and especially the number 
of men who were in action in the various portions of the 
battle-field, cannot be ascertained even approximately. The 
guns were placed on the north bank to the east of and 
close to the laager ; they faced at first towards the north- 
east, so as to oppose French's cavalry. The Boer position 
was not badly chosen for a purely passive defence by 
infantry, for there was a clear field of fire everywhere, and 
an attack would have to be carried out across about 2,000 

N 2 



l8o LORD KITCHENER'S ATTACK. [Ch.XVI. 

yards of perfectly flat cotintry, except where there was 
bush 2CXD or 3CXD yards wide along the river valley. To 
ensure the safety of the numerous women and children, a 
quantity of shelters had been hollowed out at the bottom 
of the river valley in the steep banks, and these aflForded 
them complete security from all kinds of fire. Cronje's 
Headquarters were at the drift on the south bank* 

Early on the i8th tlie British cavalry and the sixth and 
ninth divisions were not far from Paardeberg and about 
to surround Cronje ; the seventh division was at Jacobsdal, 
and the first at Modder River Camp. 

Lord Kitchener himself reconnoitred the enem/s 
position at an early hour. Cronje's fate appeared 
to be sealed, and the only question was whether the final 
blow should be struck at once, or whether it would be 
better to trust to time, remaining content with having 
surrounded him, until hunger and an artillery bombard- 
ment should compel the Boers to surrender. For weighty 
reasons Lord Kitchener decided on an immediate attack. 
It was known that numerous and strong bodies of the 
enemy were hastening from Bloemfontein and the Orange 
River to reinforce Cronje, and as their arrival might, under 
certain circumstances, destroy all the advantages hitherto 
gained, prompt action seemed to be desirable. Bitter 
experience had likewise shown that the difficulties of 
the attack would be multiplied if time were given to the 
Boers, who were so skilful in rapidly strengthening a 
position. But, as they had as yet thrown up only weak 
entrenchments, it still seemed possible to overcome their 
resistance easily and without too great loss, especially as 
all the information concerning the enemy was to the eflFect 
that he was very much dispirited, and that the ceaseless 
pursuit of the preceding days had greatly weakened his 

• According to an eye-witness he " had a complete system of subterranean 
shelters dug in the steep banks, and these were connected by numerous 
passages." 




I900.] KITCHENER'S TACTICS. i8i 

power of resistance. There was also another considera- 
tion; the great scarcity of means of transport, and the 
threatened Commissariat difficulties rendered the early 
capture of the numerous carts and supplies, which the 
Boers were known to possess, of enhanced importance 
for the rapid success of the move on Bloemfontein. 

All these reasons thoroughly justified the resolve of the 
Chief of the Staff to attack with the superior forces 
available on the spot, but the manner in which this 
decision was executed was certainly less happy. It had 
this defect, that the action at Paardeberg on February 
1 8th was not one single tactical operation, but was rather 
subdivided into three smaller and isolated combats, each 
of which was fought independently at considerable intervals 
of time and place. 



1 82 [Ch.XVII. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

The Sixth Division and the Highland Brigadb 

ON THE South Bank.* 

About 6 a.m. Lord Kitchener ordered the sixth division 
to attack immediately, and at half-past six the 76th and 
8 1st Field Batteries opened fire on the Boer laager in 
the river valley from Gun Hill on the south banlct The 
infantry deployed imder cover of this fire, five battalions 
advancing about 7 a.m. between Gun Hill and Kitchener's 
Kopje to make a frontal attack on the Boers, while 
the two remaining battalions, the Welch and the 
Essex, were ordered to make a circuit eastwards, and 
advance along the valley of the river so as to attack the 
Boer left flank. Of the five battalions making the frontal 
attack on the south bank, four were in the first line, the 
1st Yorkshire, of the eighteenth brigade, being on the 
right, the ist West Riding, of the thirteenth brigade, 
next to it; then came the Buffs, and, on the left wing, 
the 1st Oxfordshire Light Infantry. The 2nd Gloucester- 
shires were held in reserve; two of its companies acted 
as escort to the artillery on Gun Hill, three companies 
remained to protect the baggage and trains at the 
bivouaCj and the three remaining companies were 

* This account is based substantially upon the written and verbal 
descriptions of Germans on the Boer side, several British officers, and the 
Editor of the " Times " history, and the General Staff takes this oppor- 
tunity of expressing its especial thanks to them. 

t Map 8. 




1900.] SIXTH DIVISION. 183 

directed to occupy Kitchener's Kopje on the right flank. 
The battalions formed for attack in three lines as a 
rule, and about 3,000 yards from the river bed; the 
firing line of each consisted of two or three companies 
with five or six paces interval between each man, 
three other companies, also widely extended, followed as 
immediate supports about 300 yards in rear, and behind 
them came as a reserve the remaining companies in line 
about a quarter of a mile from the supports. The four 
battalions had a front of about two miles. 

The battalions advanced in this formation towards the 
river at a lively pace across the bare plain. The enemy 
opened fire at a range of over 2,200 yards,* but without 
much eflFect ; he had previously directed it against the 
artillery on Gun Hill, but without any result as the dis- 
tance was nearly two miles. The British skirmishers did 
not open fire until within about a mile from the Boers; 
they had not yet suffered sufficient loss to be compelled 
to halt, although nothing could be seen as yet of the 
adversary. Volley firing was employed at first, but, as 
the range diminished, and it became possible to distinguish 
a target, individual fire was alone used After a short 
musketry action the advance was resumed by mutually 
supported rushes of ninety or a hundred yards, and was 
occasioned, at the longer ranges, mostly by the arrival of 
reinforcements, which carried the firing Une along with 
them, and which were intended not so much to increase 
the fire of the latter as to give it continually fresh incen- 
tive to advance. 

These supports advanced as a rule by rushes in a 
widely extended line with about ten or twelve paces 
interval between each man. The last one or two hundred 
yards from the firing line, especially at the shorter ranges, 

* As a rule the Boers at Paardeberg did not fire at ranges exceeding a 
mile. 



1 84 OPERATIONS ON SOUTH BANK OF M ODDER, [Ch. XVI r. 

were crawled over as the enemy's fire was directed princi- 
pally against these supports. At the decisive ranges 
of 500 yards and under the firing line also advanced 
crawling as a rule, one company of a battalion moving 
forward while another, lying down, poured in a hot fire; 
the distances so crawled over at one time were 30 or 
35 yards in extent 

In this way the West Ridings and Yorkshires succeeded, 
during the forenoon, in getting within less than a quarter 
of a mile of the Boer position, while the Buffs and the 
Oxfordshires, conformably to the express orders of their 
divisional commander, remained lying down about 750 
yards from the enemy. All the reserves were gradually 
pushed up into the firing line, even the three companies 
of the Gloucestershires, which had occupied Kitchener's 
Kopje, and were relieved there by a detachment of 
Kitchener's Horse. 

Meanwhile the Highland Brigade of the ninth division 
had come into action, by order of Lord Kitchener, to the 
left of the sixth division, in the space between it and the 
Modder River. The 65 th Howitzer Battery of the ninth 
division had been sent to reinforce the artillery on Gun 
Hill soon after 7 a.m. ; of the two batteries of the sixth 
division which were already there, the Eighty-first Field 
Battery had been directed by Lord Kitchener, shortly 
after opening fire, to change position on to a small 
eminence to the north of Kitchener's Kopje, in order ta 
prevent an attempt on the part of Cronje to break through 
at that point All the batteries, after they had silenced 
the few hostile gims, directed their fire on the Boer 
entrenchments on the south bank, spreading their shrapnel 
fire over all the bush and undergrowth. The result was^ 
however, very trifling, and did not prevent the Boers, who 
were in no way disconcerted, from concentrating the 
whole strength of their fire on the attacking infantry. 




1900.] HIGHLAND BRIGADE. 185 

The Highland Brigade had moved off from its bivouac 
to the east of Paardeberg Drift towards 7.30 a.m., the 
order of march being the ist Argyll and Sutherlands, 
the 2nd Black Watch, and the 2nd Seaforths. They 
advanced eastwards at a distance of i^ miles from the 
enemy in one long, single row with four paces interval 
between each man, until the head of the Argylls was on a 
level with the artillery on Gun Hill, and behind the left 
wing of the sixth division. The column was then told to 
face to its left, and the whole brigade, with the exception 
of two companies of the Seaforths, which followed in rear 
of the left flank, advanced in one extended line of 
skirmishers, without supports or reserves, across the open 
plain towards the river. When within about a mile from 
the Boers the latter opened rifle fire upon the brigade, 
which, however, continued its advance without replying. 
When the Argylls reached the left wing of the sixth 
division, which was lying down about 800 yards from the 
enemy, they pushed themselves into the firing line of the 
Oxfordshires, but the other two battalions continued to 
advance without firing a shot, until within about 500 
yards of the enemy, and not imtil then did they lie down 
and commence firing. 

General Sir -Henry Colvile, who commanded the ninth 
division, in describing this gallant advance of his High- 
landers, has very aptly said that he did not believe he 
would ever again see anything finer or more inspiring than 
the advance of that thin line of skirmishers across the 
perfectly bare plain, under a hail of bullets from an in- 
visible enemy. "The line became thinner and thinner,** 
continues the general, " while, the red-brown spots, which 
it left behind on the grass, became thicker and thicker. 
What brave men are capable of accomplishing the High- 
landers did, only it appears that there are certain laws 
which fix the exact limit of loss, that a body of troops. 



I86 OPERATIONS ON SOUTH BANK OF MODDER. [Ch. XVII. 

consisting of civilised soldiers, can stand, and which has 
nothing to do with fear. A battalion will advance under 
a storm of bullets up to a certain point without wavering ; 
when it has reached that point, it is possible that the 
adversary's fire has slackened, but, if the gaps in its ranks 
be too great, the battalion will have already been brought 
to a standstill I will not enter upon the difficult question 
as to whether open or closed formations are best for 
attack, but two things are irrevocably fixed, namely, that 
frontal attacks against entrenched troops, armed with a 
modem rifle, can never be carried through with one thin 
line, and that it is impossible to advance in close order 
unless the formation has plenty of depth so that gaps 
may be filled up." 

As the whole brigade had been simultaneously extended 
in one thin line, which had a front of nearly two and a-half 
miles, its left wing extended considerably beyond the 
Boer position. Of this portion, which overlapped the 
adversary, several companies of the Seaforths crossed the 
Modder River imder fire, and moved against the enemy's 
flank; they were afterwards reinforced by their two 
compcinies, which had been left in rear of the left wing 
of the brigade, and which had crossed the river some- 
what lower down. These troops on the north bank of 
the river succeeded in getting within 300 yards of the 
hostile position during the course of the day. On the 
south bank, however, the Highland Brigade was unable 
to make any more considerable progfress throughout the 
action, as it had no supports wherewith to reinforce the 
firing line, and carry forward the attack. The urgent 
entreaties of the brigadier, General MacDonald, for rein- 
forcements could only be met by the despatch of half a 
battalion of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, too 
weak a force to infuse new life into the slackening fire of 
the Highlanders. 




1900.] ARRIVAL OF DE WET, 1 8/ 

Matters were still worse in the case of the sixth division 
during the afternoon. About three o'clock a serious 
incident occurred which might have forced it to retreat, 
and would have rendered it possible for the Boers, had 
they been more resolute, to break through at that spot 
While the sixth division, imder the impression that the 
kopje situated on its right flank and rear was held by 
Kitchener's Horse, had its whole attention hxed on the 
action in front of it, a very hot fire was poured suddenly 
into its flank and rear from the hill in question. The 
detachment of Kitchener's Horse told off to hold it, had 
thoughtlessly left the kopje during the afternoon, and 
had ridden to Osfontein farm, which was close at hand, 
to water their horses, which were half perished with thirst. 
Just at that very moment there arrived a body of 
Boers, about 500 strong, with two guns, under de Wet, 
from Koffyfontein in the south. The whole detach- 
ment of Kitchener's Horse was captured after a brief re- 
sistance, and the Boers installed themselves on Kitchener's 
Kopje, opening a very effective fire on the flank and rear 
of the sixth division. 

An officer of the divisional Staff hurriedly collected some 
mounted infantry, which was rambling about in rear of 
the front of the division, as well as the three companies 
of the Gloucestershires left behind as baggage escort 
This weak force was extended back to back with 
the Yorkshires, and facing the kopje forming a semi- 
circle around it, thus protecting the Yorkshires in 
some degree at least, from an attack which would 
immediately threaten their rear. On this portion of 
the battle-field the English were nevertheless obliged 
to fight facing in two directions, a most uncomfortable 
situation, and one which turned the vigorously beg^un 
attack into a toilsome and dragging defensive action. 
Everybody was lying down close to the bare plain. 



l88 OPERATIONS ON SOUTH BANK OF MODDER. [Ch. XVII. 

anxiously awaiting the approach of darkness, in order to 
seek for cover further to the rear. Late in the after- 
noon the firing began gradually to slacken, there being 
no more troops available to reinforce the &ring line and 
to bring up ammunition. Individuals who attempted to 
fetch some generally paid the penalty with their lives. 

The British infantry suffered greatly from the intensely 
hot musketry fire of the Boers, which was poured into it 
throughout the action "just as before the final charge at 
a good old Aldershot field day." The infantry had to 
face this fire for nearly twelve hours without food or water. 

The men suffered terribly from thirst Many British 
officers consider that to provide troops in action with water 
is most important, and almost as necessary as bringing up 
ammunition. The extent to which thirst is produced in 
modem battles in consequence of excitement is scarcely 
conceivable. A refreshing drink of water at the right 
moment is said to increase, often to an extraordinary 
degree, the fighting powers of the troops. It is essential, 
at the least, that each man should go into action with his 
water-bottle filled The Boers generally kept large sup- 
plies of fresh drinking water ready in their positions. 



1900.] 189 



CHAPTER XVIII. 
The Nineteenth Brigade on the North Bank, 

The remainder of the ninth division, namely, the nine- 
teenth brigade, and the 82nd Field Battery, met with no 
greater success on the north bank The brigade had 
crossed the river at Paardeberg Drift with three of its 
battalions* and the batteryt shortly after 9 a.m., and, 
quite unnoticed by the enemy, commenced a wide turning 
movement of his position, making very skilful use of the 
ground The battalions came into action one after the 
other as they arrived on the scene, the first to do so 
being the 2nd Royal Canadians about 11.30 a.m., and 
they were followed by the 2nd Shropshires, and the 1st 
Gordons in the order named, the Royal Canadians form- 
ing the pivot flank of the movement They extended for 
attack on the left, and next to the companies of the 
Seaforths which were engaged on the north bank of the 
Modder River. The small watercoiurse, which joins the 

* The fourth battalion of the brigade, the 2nd Duke of Cornwall's Light 
Infantry, had been left behind at the bivouac ground south of Paardeberg 
Drift to guard the baggage. 

t When the ninth division reached the river at Paardeberg Drift, the 
latter had risen suddenly, and was no longer fordable for infantry. The 
troops remained at first helpless on the bank, not knowing what to do, as 
the pontoon wagons and their teams had been given up, by order of the 
Commander-in-Chief, for purposes of supply. It was only by means of a 
very ingenious idea on the part of the senior Engineer officer on the spot 
that the passage could be effected at all during the morning, and even then 
with considerable delay. He had a strong rope carried across by a collap- 
sible boat, which happened to be available, and the men passed over by it, 
after the force of the stream had been broken by severail carts which were 
pushed into the river. 



igo OPERATIONS ON NORTH BANK. [Ch. XVIII. 

river where the latter bends towards the south, was 
strongly held by the Boers. The tactics were similar to 
those of the Highland Brigade ; the battaUons, while still 
out of range, formed one long, thin Une of skirmishers, and 
advanced to within about 850 yards of the enemy before 
opening fire. Both volley firing and individual firing were 
employed. The advance of the brigade was supported by 
the 82nd Field Battery, which came into action on Signal 
Hill about 12.30 p.m., and directed an effective flanking 
fire on the Boer? at the river bend. 

This battery, however, which had rendered valuable 
aid at first to the infantry attack, soon ceased firing, as 
its shrapnel burst several times over the heads of the 
men of the Highland Brigade, who were in action on 
the south bank and in the river valley. In consequence of 
this the guns were directed against the laager which was 
situated further to the east. 

When the defenders became aware of the turning move- 
ment of the Shropshires and Gordons, they changed front, 
and formed up parallel to the river bank, and at right 
angles to the Boers occupying the small watercourse, and 
between these men and the laager. Hence it happened 
that this attack became a purely frontal one. 

Owing to lack of support from the rear the fire of 
the brigade was neither heavy, nor uniform, nor superior 
in effect, and this attack also came to a complete stand- 
still about 2.30 p.m., although small portions of the firing 
line still attempted to advance. 

Just at that time the ninth division received an order 
from Lord Kitchener to rush the Boer position with all 
available fresh troops. From his post with the artillery on 
the south bank he had gained the impression that a resolute 
bayonet charge was alone necessary to drive the adversary 
out of his positions. The distance, however, exceeded 
700 yardsi and there was no evidence whatever that the 



I900.] KITCHENER AND COLVILE. I91 

fire of the brigade had had any effect, while, so far from 
its having been superior to that of the Boers, the contrary 
had rather shown itself to be the case. Colvile, never- 
theless, thought a charge might succeed, but with heavy 
loss. He felt bound, however, to inform Kitchener* that, 
in his view, it was not necessary to storm the Boer position 
on that day, but merely to surround Cronje. Kitchener 
insisted on his order being obeyed, and his determination 
to carry the attack through was certainly right But his 
attempt to drive the enemy from his position by shock 
and not by fire tactics showed that he, like most British 
officers, did not appreciate correctly the essence of the 
modem infantry fight. Otherwise he must have reflected 
that it was much too early to charge, and that the essential 
thing to be done was to strengthen the slackening fire of 
the nineteenth brigade, and to make its left wing approach 
to within such a distance from the Boers as to render it 
possible to bring their position in the watercourse imder 
a more effective fire, and especially to enfilade it. 

The half battalion of the 2nd Comwalls,t which had 
been left as baggage guard, was all that was available in 
the shape of fresh troops, and to it alone did Colvile 
communicate the order to storm the watercourse, which 
was very strongly held. After crossing the river the 
Comwalls came into action in rear of the Royal Canadians, 
and reached their line by rushes and crawling. The other 

* The Chief of the Staff wished to command in person all units down to 
and includinj^ battalions, and he issued his orders direct to the latter, 
ignoring the regulation channels of communication, and the divisional com- 
manders. The consequence was that a strong feeling of resentment took 
possession of the divisional generals ; they retired completely into the back- 
ground, and, on this particular day, were even more passive than usual. 
Their leadership was destitute of all agreeable responsibility and initia- 
tive ; and this was particularly noticeable in the attitude of the commander 
of the cavalry division, who was otherwise so alert. 

t The battalion was at dinner when it received the order to attack. 
Colonel Aldworth allowed his men to finish their meal quietly, which 
caused a delay of about 45 minutes. But the battalion, refreshed by 
its food, was certainly far better prepared to go into action. 



192 OPERATIONS ON NORTH BANK. [Ch. XVIII. 

battalions of the brigade, apparently awaiting orders, re- 
mained lying down, but the Royal Canadians joined the 
Cornwalls of their own accord, without being ordered to 
do so. Both battalions then crawled along together with- 
out firing until within 500 yards of the enemy's position, 
when bayonets were fixed All at once, apparently by 
signal, the whole line rose and charged with loud 
cheers. It already seemed as if the assault, which 
was delivered with uncommon resolution, would succeed, 
when the line, which had been getting thinner and thinner, 
suddenly staggered under the devastating fire of the Boers, 
and threw itself down. The losses suffered during the 
few moments which the charge lasted were tolerably heavy, 
and in the case of the half battalion of the 2nd Corn- 
walls, they even amounted to 22 per cent Their gallant 
commander, Lieut-Colonel Aldworth, had fallen at the 
head of his death-defying men. Kitchener having insisted, 
however prematurely, on the charge being delivered, it was 
Colvile's duty to arrange for this being done uniformly 
by the whole brigade and not by weak portions of it 

It was then 5 p.m., and the isolated advance of the 
igth brigade on the north bank had met with the 
same fate as the individual attacks of the sixth 
division, and the Highland Brigade on the south bank 
during the forenoon. A weak fire, which gradually 
slackened, was kept up with difficulty imtil darkness set 
in, and under cover of the night, the troops, which were 
utterly exhausted by hunger, thirst, and their excessive 
exertions, were withdrawn behind the kopjes situated 
further to the rear. 




I90O.] 193 



CHAPTER XIX. 

The Mounted Infantry and the Eighteenth 
Brigade in the River Valley to the East 

OF the Laager. 

A strong body of mounted infantry, under Hannay, 
had been holding the cattle drift to the north of 
Kitchener's Kopje since the early morning to prevent 
the Boers from escaping eastwards. The remainder of 
the mounted infantry was dispersed over the whole battle- 
field, some of it being on the north bank with the ninth 
division, and some on the south bank with the sixth divi- 
sion, Lord Kitchener having ordered it in the early part 
of the day, before the infantry had come up, to surround 
the Boers on the north-west, south, and east 

When the sixth division was forming for attack, Colonel 
Hannay advanced on both banks of the river against the 
Boers, who occupied the small watercourses to the east 
of the laager. The fighting here was at long range, and 
not very heavy, as Lord Kitchener's orders were to wait 
for the two battalions of the eighteenth brigade, namely, 
the Welch and Essex, which were to be sent in support, 
before making a general attack. When noon, however, 
had passed, and the battalions had not yet appeared, 
Colonel Hannay told his orderly officer to represent to 
Lord Kitchener the impossibility of the mounted infantry 
alone making the attack which, in his opinion, could only 
result in the useless sacrifice of his men. Lord Kitchener 
received this message about 1.30 p.m. when he was visibly 
excited by the attack of the sixth division making no 

O 



r Z7 Z'£E LAAGLR. [Ch, XIX. 

rs IS Coeooel Hannay 
ibe sxcnted infantry 






«•"!:- — i :ir-iz:.i:i —iazrr szii ie '-^qr'^ collected 50 or 

ir :iLS hiTfiful through his 

— ~- : "irii TTsr ±-13. disst 215 birse was shot, but he 
zi in,: :::rr:*i 31 : ::r *J3^ zis zdcc ^mfl he was killed, 

-:i5 i-i-L=3. barr.v r:c rards from the 

If Jrs rzZ2=r parrv cdy two returned, 

■i cr w landed; some, in- 



^r^ rzsi arrrsas. v=^ nrczr^d as their horses^ 

~ sacizicnt strength to pene- 



nc Zcc^ "^1^ • jc "^a?- ^ oi such a handful 

their part, cculd not 

- ^siit- 7*t ± enabled the hring 

:trcc 35c jirfs o£ the enemy, 

T. ::r tie tizse being; 



>^_ ^ 



— •- 



EiE ^'e i=g iiae. from its 

and as it was 



^■^ -^^ - T-zs sen vith'irxwz in a ncrtherh" direc- 






z rarnlccs re the eighteenth brigade, which 

12: ttsIt i-¥^t*cL "-g»^ i>fen, meanwhile, diverted 

-■«!?rF:ier=. -i -i - w -> ->- * cc their instructions to attack 

■>^c -£ ^ E:ers by advancing along the river 

T^^ -^asshrg cl^sc to the north of Kitchener's 

■v -r -c "^^T^s: a crr^t eastwards, when artillery fire was 

" ,: -p^-- -i— - hrr-^ thc heights to the north of Osfon- 

^^ T— 1 wh:^ri moe occupied by about 500 men of the 

«cc3e e^nB» who were the first reinforcements 
:rr»« fnna B3oexsfontcin. 
^ Sxst Battoy had come into action to the 




1900.] WELCH AND ESSEX REGIMENTS. igS 

north of Kitchener's Kopje, and at once directed its fire 
on these hostile guns, which were soon silenced At the 
same time several companies of the Welch Regiment 
hastened in that direction both to protect the battery, 
and the rear of the motmted infantry which was in action, 
while the remaining companies of the two battalions of 
the 1 8 th brigade took up a position under cover in 
a dry watercourse near the cattle drift The cavalry also 
extended some dismounted men on the heights at 
Koodoes Rand Drift against Boers on the hills south of 
the drift, while its two batteries of horse artillery opened 
fire on the Boer guns. These measures prevented the 
further advance of the hostile detachment. When Boer 
riflemen suddenly appeared on Kitchener's Kopje in the 
afternoon, and seriously endangered the 8ist Battery, 
some more companies were deployed against the hill, 
and a large proportion of both these battalions was 
expended in several directions. This tmexpected fight 
entangled much of the iSth brigade and prevented it from 
attacking the Boer flank. As at Kitchener's Kopje it 
shows the scouting so necessary in action was faulty. 

Kelly-Kenny, perceiving the unfortunate issue of the 
fight of the mounted infantry to the east of the laager, sent 
orders, about 4 p.m., to the i8th brigade to cross the river 
at the cattle drift at once, and to attack the Boer laager 
from the east Only three companies of the Welch r^- 
ment were available, which, together with the Essex 
regiment, crossed the river at the point ordered. After 
reaching the top of the north bank, the Welchmen were 
extended in three lines; the first line advanced with ten 
paces interval between each man towards the Boer laager, 
and, when within i,6cxD yards from the enemy, a hot fire 
was poured into it ; the second and third lines reinforced 
the front one, and the Essex Regiment followed in support 
tmder cover of the river bed 

O 2 



h. 



194 OPERATIONS EAST OF THE LAAGER, [Ch. XIX. 

progress, and he sent express orders to Colonel Hannay 
to storm the laager at once, with the motinted infantry 
alone if necessary, cost what it might 

Hannay thereupon ordered Colonel de Lisle to attack 
with the mounted infantry, and he himself collected 50 or 
60 men, who were in rear of the firing line, and ordered 
them to mount He rode with* this handful through his 
own firing line against the Boer entrenchments; when 
about 300 yards away from them his horse was shot, but he 
got up, and hurried on foot after his men until he was killed, 
pierced by numerous bullets, barely 200 yards from the 
hostile position. Of his gallant party only two returned, 
the others being either killed or wounded; some, in- 
cluding the adjutant, were captured, as their horses, 
although wounded, had still sufficient strength to pene- 
trate into the Boer lines. The charge of such a handful 
of men, magnificent as it was on their part, could not 
have produced a decisive result, yet it enabled the firing 
line to approach to within about 350 yards of the enemy, 
as the Boers had directed their fire, for the time being, 
exclusively on the horsemen. But the firing line, from its 
vicinity to the Boers, suffered heavy loss, and, as it was 
unsupported, it was soon withdrawn in a northerly direc- 
tion under cover of some kopjes. 

The two battalions of the eighteenth brigade, which 
were so anxiously awaited, had been, meanwhile, diverted 
elsewhere. In pursuance of their instructions to attack 
the left flank of the Boers by advancing along the river 
valley, they were passing close to the north of Kitchener's 
Kopje, making a circuit eastwards, when artillery fire was 
opened upon them from the heights to the north of Osfon- 
tein Farm, which were occupied by about 500 men of the 
enemy with some guns, who were the first reinforcements 
to arrive from Bloemfontein. 

The 8 1 St Battery had come into action to the 



1900.] WELCH AND ESSEX REGIMENTS. igS 

north of Kitchener's Kopje, and at once directed its fire 
on these hostile guns, which were soon silenced At the 
same time several companies of the Welch Regiment 
hastened in that direction both to protect the battery, 
and the rear of the motmted infantry which was in action, 
while the remaining companies of the two battalions of 
the 1 8th brigade took up a position imder cover in 
a dry watercourse near the cattle drift The cavalry also 
extended some dismoimted men on the heights at 
Koodoes Rand Drift against Boers on the hills south of 
the drift, while its two batteries of horse artillery opened 
fire on the Boer guns. These measures prevented the 
further advance of the hostile detachment. When Boer 
riflemen suddenly appeared on Kitchener's Kopje in the 
afternoon, and seriously endangered the 8ist Battery, 
some more companies were deployed against the hill, 
and a large proportion of both these battalions was 
expended in several directions. This tmexpected fight 
entangled much of the iSth brigade and prevented it from 
attacking the Boer flank. As at Kitchener s Kopje it 
shows the scouting so necessary in action was faulty. 

Kelly-Kenny, perceiving the unfortunate issue of the 
fight of the mounted infantry to the east of the laager, sent 
orders, about 4 p.m., to the i8th brigfade to cross the river 
at the cattle drift at once, and to attack the Boer laager 
from the east Only three companies of the Welch r^- 
ment were available, which, together with the Essex 
regiment, crossed the river at the point ordered. After 
reaching the top of the north bank, the Welchmen were 
extended in three lines ; the first hne advanced with ten 
paces interval between each man towards the Boer laager, 
and, when within i,6cxD yards from the enemy, a hot fire 
was poured into it ; the second and third lines reinforced 
the front one, and the Essex Regiment followed in support 
tmder cover of the river bed. 

O 2 



196 OPERATIONS EAST OF THE LAAGER. [Ch. XIX, 

The Welch companies managed easily to approach with- 
in about 750 yards of the adversary without having been 
drawn into a serious musketry action at the longer ranges, 
but now, instead of opening a brisk fire, they were ordered 
to fix bayonets. Notwithstanding the long distance the 
Welchmen dashed forward with loud cheers, while the 
Essex regiment remained quietly imder cover in the bed of 
the river. The isolated attack of the three companies met 
with the same fate as had that of the Royal Canadians and 
Cornwalls a short time previously, and the same thing hap- 
pened in both cases; the men charged courageously for 
some hundreds of yards, and then the attack collapsed 
imder the fire of the Boers, who were still in no degree 
shaken. A quarter of a mile from the enemy the rem- 
nants of the gallant companies threw themselves down, 
and waited for nightfall, while the Essex raiment re- 
mained under cover in a watercourse without taking any 
part in the fighting. 

When darkness had fallen the two battalions wished to 
retire to the south bank, but their retreat was cut oflF by 
a Boer detachment from Kitchener's Kopje, which had 
occupied the cattle drift As it was getting dark the 
8 1st Battery, and its escort, had been withdrawn from 
their advanced position to Gun Hill, and the way to the 
drift was thus opened to the Boers. The Welch and 
Essex regiments bivouacked, therefore, several thousand 
yards to the east of the laager on the north bank. 

Two officers, who had swum across the river, reported 
to Headquarters the situation of these battaUons. The 
cavalry remained in possession of the heights between 
Koodoes Rand Drift and Kameelfontein ; its small share 
in the fighting on the i8th has been explained by its 
having been fully occupied with the enemy advancing 
from the east, and that it could not have done more than 




1900.] INDECISIVE BATTLES, 1 97 

watch the country to the north-east of the Boer laager, 
in order to prevent Cronje from breaking through there. 

In every undecided action, such as Paardeberg, troops 
will be seen remaining mitil night in the positions they 
have won. When so near the enemy, to retire by day 
will hardly be possible with modem firearms; it would 
mean certain ruin. Victory will not be gained until the next 
day, and will incline to that side which has most endurance 
or fresh forces. Darkness will be utilised either to relieve 
exhausted troops by fresh ones, or as in this case to with- 
draw them. Gravelotte was tmdecided in the evening on 
the German right The French, beaten on their right, 
evacuated in the night their positions on their left, while 
the exhausted 7th and 8th German Corps, facing these, 
were relieved by the fresher 2nd Corps. 

The total British loss at Paardeberg in killed, wounded, 
and missing exceeded 1,200 men, of whom 67 were 
officers, while that of the Boers is said to have been 
approximately 300 men. At nightfall, after more than 
twelve hours' fighting, the English found themselves in 
the same positions from which they had started, in the 
morning, to attack, and they could not have prevented 
Cronje from breaking through with his horsemen during 
the night of February iSth-igth in the direction of 
Kitchener's Kopje, and joining hands with de Wet But 
the women, children, and all the baggage must then have 
been left behind in the laager, and, besides, the Boers were 
too exhausted for the moment to carry out such an enter- 
prise. Cronje hoped, moreover, that the reinforcements, 
which had already arrived to the east and south-east of the 
laager, as well as those to be expected from Natal and 
Bloemfontein, would soon release him from his difficult 
situation. 



198 Ch. XX. 



CHAPTER XX. 
The Surrender of Cronje. 

Lord Roberts had received a report from Lord Kitchener 
at Paardeberg, during the afternoon of the 18th, in which 
the latter described the state of affairs on the morning of 
that day, and urgently requested reinforcements. In 
consequence of this the fourteenth brigade, and the 
artillery of the seventh division, namely, the 18th, 62nd, 
and 75th Batteries, started on the same night between 
nine and ten o'clock from Jacobsdal for Paardeberg, where 
they arrived between four and five o'clock on the after- 
noon of the following day. They had covered this long 
distance in 19 hours, a performance which surpassed even 
that of the ninth division. The Brigade of Guards was 
sent from Modder River Station to Klip Drift to protect 
the commimications, and it remained there for the next 
few days, while the remainder of the seventh division, 
namely, the fifteenth brigade, was left for a while at 
Jacobsdal for the same purpose The Commander-in- 
Chief and the Headquarter Staff left Jacobsdal at four 
o'clock on the morning of the 19th, and reached Paarde- 
berg about six hours afterwards. Lord Roberts was met 
there by the Chief of the Staff, with the announcement 
that a 24 hours' armistice had been concluded with the 
Boers, for the purpose of burying the dead and attend- 



1900.] ARTILLERY BOMBARDMENT. I99 

ing to the wounded, but, after a brief consultation with the 
generals present he rescinded this agreement* 

The Commander-in-Chief resolved, after he had per- 
sonally reconnoitred the Boer position, to make no further 
attack, but only to draw closer the investing line of 
infantry, and to compel the Boers to surrender by an 
artillery bombardment as well as through himger. 

It had been discovered, in the morning, that the west 
wing of the Boers on the north bank had evacuated its 
strong position at the bend of the river^ and had taken 
up a new one about 1,100 yards further back. The 
nineteenth brigade at once occupied the former ground, 
and got within some 750 yards of the enemy's new entrench- 
ments. A party of Boers, two or three hundred strong, 
imder Commandant Fronemann, had penetrated, at an 
early hour, through the gap on the south-eastern portion 
of the battle-field, between the thirteenth and the 
eighteenth brigades ; this gap was situated to the north 
of Kitcheners Kopje, which was held by de Wet, and 
Fronemann had joined the latter. Cronje could have 
done the same at that time with all his mounted mea 

The Commander-in-Chief issued orders at midday to 
open fire on the Boer laager, and the artillery of the seventh 
division, which had hurried on in front of its infantry, 
reached Gun Hill at noon.t Its batteries came into action 
to the left of the 65th Howitzer Battery, while the bat- 
teries of the sixth division, the 76th and 8ist, which had 
hitherto been there, took up a position somewhat to the 
south of the hill, and facing Kitchener's Kopje; they 
then opened fire against the enemy on the latter, at a 
range of more than 2,200 yards. The four naval guns,{ 
namely, two 4*7-inch and two 12 pounders, which arrived 
on the evening of the 19th, were sent to Gim Hill on the 

• Appendix VII. t Map 8. 

X The remainder did not arrive uniil the 20th. 



200 THE SURRENDER OF CRONJE, [Ch. XX. 

right of the artillery of the seventh division, so that 28 
guns were now concentrated there, while the 82nd Battery 
remained on Signal Hill on the north bank. The Head- 
quarter Camp was pitched on the south bank near Paarde- 
berg Drift, and the field hospitals were erected not far 
from it The third cavalry brigade, under Gordon, re- 
joined its Headquarters on this day from Kimberley, 
whereas the first brigade, tmder Porter, did not follow 
until the 22nd.* In obedience to a heliographic order 
from Lord Kitchener, Broadwood's brigade, the second, 
had crossed to the south bank at Paardeberg Drift early 
in the morning in order to drive the Boers from Kitchener's 
Kopje. General de Wet had been in heliographic com- 
munication with Cronje since the previous day, and 
implored him repeatedly to break through with his horse- 
men only, and to join hands with him. General Broad- 
wood endeavoured to approach the hill from the 
south, but as he "found it too strongly held to be able 
to justify an attack," he retired and bivouacked to the 
south of Paardeberg Drift The horses were still so 
exhausted, that it was impossible to trot away from the 
artillery fire on the kopje, when the brigade was making 
its flank march. 

The Gloucestershire regiment, which had been charged 
with the duty of containing de Wet's commando on 
Kitchener's Kopje, had suffered extremely throughout the 
19th from the enemy's fire, and a fresh attack was, 
therefore, made towards evening on the hill, with Lord 
Roberts* consent The battalion tried to drive off the 
Boers with the bayonet, and it succeeded in dislodging 
them from a small projecting summit, where it entrenched 
itself when darkness set in. The battalion withdrew, 



* Its late arrival is explained by the fact that it did not receive General 
French's telegram to Kimberley to follow at once until the 21st, owing to 
some oversight, which has not been explained. 



/ 




1900.] BOER LAAGER ON FIRE. 201 

however, during the night, to its former position in 
accordance with orders from Headquarters. The bom- 
bardment of the Boer laager increased in intensity during 
the latter part of the afternoon, and created some havoc 
among the cattle and the carts. A fire broke out in several 
places in the wagon park towards 5 p.m., and a violent 
explosion occurred shortly afterwards, most of the artillery 
ammunition being blown up. There was no loss of 
human life, as the Boers, their wives, and children were 
completely protected by their hollow shelters from the 
British guns. The Boers endeavoured at first to reply 
with their rifles to the artillery fire from their entrench- 
ments, but they abandoned the attempt, as soon as they 
had recognised its futility. 

On February 20th, and during the preceding night, 
some changes were made in the disposition of the troops, 
the eighteenth brigade rejoining its division on the south 
bank, while its place was taken by the fourteenth brigade, 
which had arrived the day before. As the latter was 
marching, under cover of the night, between Kitchener's 
Kopje and the Boer entrenchments, in order to reach 
its new destination, it lost the road and stumbled right 
up against the Boer position on the river ; a hot rifle fire 
was suddenly poured into the brigade at very short range, 
which caused it to suffer a good deal of loss. It reached 
its new position in considerable disorder, and with the 
loss of some of its carts, several of the animals having been 
shot, while the drivers had run away. 

The 76th, 8 1 St, and 65 th (Howitzer) Batteries, together 
with two 47-inch naval guns, crossed to the north bank 
at Paardeberg Drift, and took up a new position on 
Signal Hill close to the 82nd Battery. The six other 
naval guns* remained on Gun Hill near the artillery of 

* Two 47 inch and four 12 pounders. 



202 THE SURRENDER OF CRONJE, [Ch. XX. 

the seventh division. The Boer position and laager were 
again bombarded from 4 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. by order of 
the Commander-in-Chief, but, considering that the ranges 
were by this time accurately known, the result was by 
no means brilliant, the shrapnel bursting for the most 
part too high. Fire broke out several times in the Boer 
camp, it is true, but it did not spread; the stench made 
by the lyddite shells was felt all the more, however, be- 
cause the atmosphere was already horribly poisoned by 
the corpses and dead animals, which decomposed rapidly 
in consequence of the heat* The Boer gims could not 
reply, as they had no ammunition left after the explosion 
of the previous day, but, towards evening, a number of 
Boer riflemen crept closer to the artillery on Gun Hill, 
and made themselves unpleasantly felt, although they fired 
only at long and medium ranges. Infantry was, therefore, 
pushed forward to protect the guns; it worked its way 
nearer to the enemy's positions by using the spade, and 
drew the investment line closer. The two cavalry brigades 
bivouacked on the heights south of Koodoes Rand Drift, 
Gordon's brigade, with two batteries of horse artillery, 
having driven off from there the Boers under Commandant 
Vloriman, who thereupon joined de Wet on Kitcheners 
Kopje. The cavalry occupied the Koodoes Rand and 
Makauw's Drifts. 

The Commando on Kitchener's Kopje imder de Wet 
had been gradually increased to 2,000 men. As 
the Boers posted on the hill continually threatened 
the right flank and rear of the sixth division, it 
was resolved to re-capture this important point The 
task was entrusted to General French, who decided to 
attack from the south, and to drive the Boers towards 
the river valley on to the rifles of the sixth division, which 

* It had not been possible to bury those who had fallen on the iSth« 




1900.] INFANTRY TRENCH WORK. 203 

was already there. When the cavalry division began to 
encircle the kopje, about 9 a.m. on February 21st, from a 
south-westerly and south-easterly direction, the enemy 
evacuated his position without letting himself be drawn into 
a fight, and galloped off towards the east The cavahy 
horses were so completely exhausted that the division was 
unable to capture any prisoners, and it immediately lost 
touch again with the enemy. Kitchener's Kopje was then 
occupied by the Yorkshires, which at last completed the 
investment of Cronje, and deprived him of any possibility 
of breaking through. Negotiations took place between 
Lord Roberts and General Cronje in the afternoon of the 
same day, concerning the unmolested withdrawal of all 
the women and children from the laager, but they led to 
no result* 

Lord Kitchener left the British camp early on the 22nd, 
escorted by a detachment of mounted infantry, and went 
first to Naauwpoort in order to arrange for the troops 
in the north of Cape Colony, and south of the Orange 
River, assuming the offensive towards the north. On 
that date the infantry succeeded, with the help of the 
spade,t in pushing further forward along both banks, the 
nineteenth brigade on the north bank approaching within 
550 yards of the enemy. The troops remained under cover 
by day, and executed their trench work at night. Although 
a Boer was scarcely ever to be seen in the river valley 
beneath, yet an English soldier had only to raise his 
head a little above the parapet, in order to be at once 
reminded of the proximity of the adversary by a well- 
aimed shot As it had become known that many Boers 
left their entrenchments after dark, in order to obtain 
their provisions from the laager, this was henceforth 
subjected to a hot artillery fire every evening, the guns 

* Appendix VII. t The tools belonged to the Engineer companies. 



204 THE SURRENDER OF CRONJE. [Ch. XX. 

having been acciirately laid by daylight The state of 
affairs in the laager became worse and worse ; the women 
and children suffered terribly, and several of the Boers, 
being sick of fighting, demanded of Cronje that hostilities 
should cease. A scarcity of provisions began to make 
itself felt, and the atmosphere became gradually so 
pestiferous in consequence of the exhalations from the 
bodies of dead animals, that it was hardly possible to 
remain in the narrow excavations. Many of the Boers 
attempted to slip through the English lines at night, or 
else deserted to the British, and the internal disorganisa- 
tion increased more and more during the next few days. 
It became also almost impossible for Cronje to direct 
operations, as the river was much swollen in consequence 
of the rain,* and the communication between both banks 
was thereby rendered very much more difficult 

Lord Methuen moved with the remainder of the 
first division to Kimberley, which became the principal 
dep6t after February 22nd ; this set free the fifteenth 
brigade, which had hitherto been left at Jacobsdal, and 
enabled it to be sent on to Klip Kraal Drift The cavalry 
division became once more complete by the arrival of the 
first brigade, under Porter, and the balloon detachment 
reached Paardeberg in the evening. 

The balloon ascended early on the following morning, the 
23rd, about a mile to the east of Paardeberg, and rendered 
quite excellent service during the following days by observ- 
ing the enemy, and it was from the balloon detachment 
that detailed and accurate information concerning the 
Boer position in the river valley below was first received. 
The attempts of the Boers to bring down the balloon by 
means of rifle fire were imsuccessful. 

The loss of Kitchener's Kopje, which was tactically so 

* The scorching heat had been almost insupportable up to the 22nd, but 
the continuous rain on the four succeeding days was most refreshing. 



iQoo.] KITCHENER'S KOPJE. 20$ 

important, had been a heavy blow for the Boers, and its 
influence on the issue of the struggle had not escaped 
dc Wet, who decided to endeavour to re-capture it on 
February 23rd. The position consists of a group of 
heights which form a rectangle, but those on the south 
side are not so high as those on the north. The ground 
in front of the south side was covered with low bush for 
a distance of nearly 900 yards. 

The Boers, who were about 2,000 strong with several 
guns, advanced in three groups, which were to approach 
as close as possible to the British position under cover 
of darkness in order to attack at daybreak. The southern 
group, tmder General Phihp Botha, was to attack 
Kitchener's Kopje from the south-east, while the centre 
and northern bodies were to advance against the hills 
situated further towards the north, Botha's force of 
1,200 men with two guns, however, was late, and was 
not able to deploy for attack tmtil about 7 a.m. When 
the Yorkshires, who occupied the kopje, perceived the 
long, loose line of skirmishers approachmg, they opened 
fire at a range of 1,500 yards, but the Boers, advancing 
in widely extended order by rushes, which were interrupted 
by their firing, managed to reach the edge of the bush 
without serious loss. 

The Yorkshires were reinforced towards 8.30 a.m. by 
the Buffs, who came up on their right, and by two bat- 
teries, which came into action to the right rear of the 
latter, whereupon the main body of the enemy retreated 
in all haste, and disappeared shortly afterwards behind 
a fold of the groimd, the t\\o other groups^ which were 
further to the north, soon following their example. A 
body of Boers, however, imder Commandant Theunissen, 
still advanced through the bush ; judging by their hot fire 
they were estimated to be several hundred strong, and the 
firing continued to be tolerably heavy until about I p.m., 



206 THE SURRENDER OF CRONJE. [Ch. XX. 

but without decisive result to either side.* The two 
remaining battalions of the thirteenth brigade then 
advanced to the south of Gun Hill against the left flank of 
the Boers, and the latter hoisted the white flag. It was 
then discovered that there had been, all the time, in the 
bush only 87 Boers, against whom a whole brigade had 
been deployed. They had not retreated, because that 
would have meant, as they afterwards declared, certain 
death. The retreating enemy was not pursued, as the 
cavalry and horse artillery had not been able to appear 
on the field, they having sent their horses to graze owing 
to the want of sufficient forage, t 

No events of importance occurred during the next few 
days, but the vigilance of the sentries was increased both 
by day and by night, as a considerable number of the Boers 
had managed, in the dark, to slip through the British 
lines, which were constantly being drawn closer by pushing 
forward the shelter trenches. The floods in the river 
caused by the heavy rain storms were so far favourable 
to the Boers, that they were able to let the many hundreds 
of dead animals, whose bodies made the laager an actual 
pest house, be carried away down stream. J 



* The German Military Attach^ with the British forces witnessed 
the fight from the kopje, and expressed his opinion in the following 
terms : — " Even with strong glasses it was impossible to see individuals, 
and, therefore, no target was ordered for the English volleys. The York- 
shires had hastily thrown up parapets of stone, and ... as soon as 
a man raised his head a little above the parapet in order to look about, 
bullets fell all around him, but it was impossible to see whence thej 
came. The invisibility of the enemy had the same depressing effect as 
in all the other actions. . . . The most striking thing about the fight 
was the complete lack of unity of leadership. Every battalion, and 
every battery acted independently ; nobody assumed the chief command. 
As regards infantry fire-tactics there were none at all. and stimulating 
initiative on the part of the officers was wanting ; they evidently endea- 
voured to infuse contempt for the efforts of the Boers by their total 
indifiPerence of manner." 

t During the preceding days it had only been possible to issue quarter 
rations of forage. 

X The Modder River was thereby completely contaminated, which was 
all the more unpleasant, as the British troops to the west of the Boer 




XQOO.] BOERS DECIDE TO SURRENDER. 20/ 

The river having fallen somewhat by midday on the 
25th, some of the Boer leaders, in response to their urgent 
representations, extracted a reluctant consent from Cronje 
that they should make an attempt, with their Commandos, 
that evening to break through in a south-easterly direc- 
tioa They had become so desperate by having the 
miserable state of their women and children continually 
before their eyes, that they preferred death to re- 
maining any longer spectators of their wretched 
condition* 

The men who were to take part in the attempt were 
assembling about 6 p.m. on the north bank not far from 
the laager, but, before they were all collected, the water 
suddenly rose again, and remained high for the two suc- 
ceeding days, which made it impossible to cross. Dis- 
appointed, and disheartened, every man returned to his 
post A Council of War was held on the following day, 
when the men of the Orange Free State declared that 
they intended to lay down their arms at once and sur- 
render to the British, with or without Cronje's consent 
The latter saw himself compelled to agree, but obtained 
that the surrender should be postponed for one day longer, 
in order that all those who wished it might try and escape 
captivity by breaking through the English lines. 

The next day, the 27th, was the anniversary of Majuba, 
and for this reason Colvile had obtained permis- 
sion from Lord Roberts to make a fresh attempt to storm 
the laager from the west side, with the 19th bri- 
gade, in the early morning. On the 26th it became the 

laaj^er were obliged to get their water supply from the river. But their 
health remained good for the time being, thanks to the invigorating atmos- 
phere, and the number of those suffering from dysentery and typhoid was 
very small (126 on Feb. 27). It is, however, probable that this bad water, 
coupled with the great exertions and scarcity of supplies, rendered the 
troops much more susceptible to the typhoid epidemic which broke out 
later in Bloemfootein. 



2o8 THE SURRENDER OF CRONJE. [Ch. XX. 

turn of the Royal Canadians for duty in the advanced 
line of trenches, and upon them, therefore, devolved the 
task of making the assault These trenches were 
about 550 yards from the Boers, and, after striking the 
river bed exactly at right angles, turned off in a north- 
easterly direction, their total length being nearly 900 
yards. 

Six companies, the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 
8th; numbering in all little more than 500 men, occupied 
them, while No. i company was in a trench on the south 
bank, which flanked the others to some extent; No. 2 
company was held in reserve, about 250 yards in rear 
of the right wing. Immediately to the left of the Royal 
Canadians, two companies of the Gordons occupied the 
north-eastern portion of the trenches, the remainder of 
their battalion being kept in reserve in a trench some 
300 yards behind the front line. The Shropshires 
and two companies of the Black Watch were held in 
readiness about 1,400 yards in rear of the extreme left 
wing of the brigade. The bank in front of the right 
wing of the Royal Canadians was covered with low, thick 
bush, while the ground in front of their left flank, towards 
the Boer trenches, was quite open and afforded no cover 
whatever. 

The Royal Canadians were to move before daybreak, 
and imder cover of the darkness, from the advanced line 
of trenches concentrically against the enemy's position, 
and, in the event of their being perceived by the 
Boers, they were to lie down, and entrench them- 
selves. The six companies were to advance simul- 
taneously in two lines, with two paces interval between 
each man, and 15 yards between the lines, of which the 
front one was to march with fixed bayonets, while the 
other was to have the rifles slung, the men carrying the 
entrenching tools in their hands. A small party of 




1900.] THE BOERS SURRENDER. 209 

engineers was to accompany the second line on either 
flank. 

The companies moved off, in the formation which had 
been ordered, at 2.15 a.m., and covered the first quarter 
of a mile unmolested, but, when they were only a himdred 
yards from the enemy, a terrific fire was poured into them. 
Fortunately some shots, which had been discharged prema- 
turely, had warned the firing line, and all the men were 
lying down when the shooting became heavy. The front 
line at once opened fire, while the second one commenced 
to dig. It was then about 3 a,m., when an incident 
occurred on the left flank which threatened to jeopardise 
the success of the whole enterprise; somebody in the 
firing line, whose identity has never been discovered, 
called out loudly in a tone of command that the whole 
was to retire taking the wounded along with it There- 
upon all the companies, with the exception of Nos. 7 and 
8 on the right wing, which had not heard the order, re- 
treated half crawling, half running, to the trench from 
which the start had been made. At daybreak the 7th and 
8th companies alone were well entrenched in the trenches 
which had been quickly made by the second line and the 
engineers^ The British loss had been trifling, as the Boers 
fired for the most part too high. 

The fighting continued until about 6 a.m., when the 
Boers who were opposite the Royal Canadians, threw 
down their arms, and surrendered Shortly afterwards 
a large white flag appeared over the Boer laager, and 
General Cronje offered to surrender unconditionally with 
the whole of his force.* His authority no longer sufficed 

• The following letter from General . Cronje to Lord Roberts was 
brought in under cover of a flag of truce : — 

** HSADQUARTER LaAGER, MoDDER RiVER, 

" February 2jik, 1900. 

" I have the honour to inform jou herewith that the Council of War, 

P 



2IO THE SURRENDER OF CRONJE. [Ch. XX. 

to make the Boers continue their resistance ; their strength 
had been broken less by the bombardment, which had not 
had much effect, than by hunger and the horrors of the 
pestiferous laager. The number of prisoners amoimted 
to 4,048 men, inclusive of 195 wounded; of the former 
number 2,613 were Transvaalers and 1,435 Orange Free 
Staters. Previous to February 27 th about three or four 
hundred Boers had either deserted, or else had broken 
through the English lines. The British also captured 
four Krupp g^ns and two machine guns, all without their 
breech-pieces, together with a large number of rifles of 
the most varied types with ammunition and numerous 
carts. 

During the ten days' fighting the Boers are stated to 
have lost 74 men killed, and 195 men wounded,* while the 
British loss amounted to 268 killed, 1,367 wounded, and 
232 missing, these figures including all the casualties 
occasioned by the fighting which inmiediately preceded 
February i8th. 

The surrender of the Boers was carried out without 
incident and in a very dignified manner, Lord Roberts 
greeting brave General Cronje with the complimentary 
words: "You have made a gallant defence. Sir." He 
then entertained him in his own tent, while the troops 
followed the good example of the Commander-in-Chief, 
making a point of providing their half-starved prisoners 
with food and drink, each man sharing, in the most liberal 



which was held yesterday evening, decided on the unconditional surrender 
of all the invested forces ; under the circumstances we are forced to this. 
We throw ourselves, therefore, upon the mercy of Her Majesty the Queen. 
As a token of surrender a white flag will be hoisted this morning at 6 
o'clock. The Council of War begs that you will at once order the cessa- 
tion of all hostilities, so that further loss of human life may be avoided. 

" I have the honour, &c." 
* ExclusiTe of the losses of de Wet's force. 



xgoo.] MALICIOUS FOREIGN PRESS. 2 1 1 

manner, the little he had, while the Boers were also treated 
with every consideration in other respects.* 

In view of the many errors, disseminated at the time 
by a badly informed Press throughout the whole world, 
as to the conduct of the war by the English, it is the 
duty of a truth-loving historical account, compiled from 
a knowledge of the actual circumstances, to lay stress upon 
the fact that the behaviour of the British was as chivalrous 
and humane as that of the Boers always was, so long 
as they were opposed by the reg^ar Boer forces, which 
were distinguishable as such. But, after the occupation of 
Bloemfontein, the loosely organised and badly disciplined 
militia forces of the Boers broke up. Those still in the 
field were often merely irregulars, and no longer recog- 
nisable externally as combatants. By degrees they 
adopted guerilla tactics which, by obliterating the dis- 
tinction between a really combatant force and a hostile 
population, were bound naturally to arouse a constantly 
increasing feeling of bitterness among the British troops, 
which were often menaced, and this not only explains 
much of their severity but also justifies it 

If, therefore, the English authorities subsequently adopted 
on several occasions increasingly severe reprisals, which 
often made their conduct of the war appear harsh, yet 
they did so, in the majority of cases, only in accordance 
with their duty, and the justifiable protection of the lives of 
those under their conmiand. Military history teaches, be- 
sides, that the bitterness aroused on both sides during a war 
increases in proportion to its duration, while humane and 
chivalrous feeling becomes, of course, blimted. 

Isolated cases of gross breaches of the customs of war 
certainly did occur, especially during the final stage of 

* A German officer, who fought on the side of the Boers, and was taken 
prisoner, states : " The treatment meted out to us by the British officers 
and soldiers was thoroughly friendly and humane, and not only the officers 
but also the Tommies behaved as perfect gentlemen towards the prisoners." 

P 2 



212 THE SURRENDER OF CRONJE. [Ch. XX. 

the struggle. But this will happen with the best dis- 
ciplined troops in the world, and was, in this instance, all 
the less to be wondered at, if we remember that the 
Colonial levies could no£ possess the same soldier-like 
kindness of feeling as the regular troops. Malpractices 
on the part of rough individuals can never be altogether 
avoided in war. But it would be utterly unjust to make 
the British commanders or the whole English nation 
responsible for this.* 

The entrenchments, which may, perhaps, be better 
described as loop-holes, prepared by the Boers are deserv- 
ing of notice; they were perpendicular and very narrow 
excavations in the ground, from two to three yards deep^ 
and were hollowed out in order to give protection against 
shrapnel Ere. 




^ 



^ 



Generally speaking there were one or two men in each 
of these holes, and they &red, as a rule, across the natural 
ground after the excavated earth had been removed ; here 
and there parapets were made of sandbags. Judging by 
the utensils left behind, the Boers had latterly lived ex- 
clusively in these entrenchments, the tops of which were 
closed with blankets or empty sacks as protection against 
the raia It was only in isolated places, especially on the 

* A German eye-witness, who visited the Boer laager immediatelj after 
the capitulation, found there " numbers of Mauser cartridges with the 
points of the bullets cut off, as well as sporting cartridges of every descrip- 
tion, the bullets of which had been cut into a mushroom shape ?? bj means 
of a knife or other instruments." 




1900.] RESULTS OF THE SURRENDER. 21 1 

north bank, that the loop-holes formed a more continuous 
line ; elsewhere they were frequently constructed very far 
apart from one another, so that there could be no ques- 
tion of any kind of &re discipline; on the contrary the 
two occupants of each hole were left entirely to their own 
resources. Even in the case of well disciplined troops it 
would have been impossible to get men out of such places 
to attack, and cover of this description is, therefore, only 
suitable for a purely passive defence. 

The captive Boers were marched under escort on 
February 28th to Klip Drift, and from there to Modder 
River Station, whence they were forwarded by rail to 
Cape Town, and then embarked for conveyance to St 
Helena. The moral effect of Cronje's capitulation on the 
Boers still in the field was very great General de Wet 
has written as follows on this subject : *' It would have 
been too much to expect from General Cronje, the gallant 
hero, that he should leave his big laager in the lurch, and 
break through alone with his horsemen ; he believed that, 
as a man, he must either stand or fall by it, and he 
certainly did not think of the consequences of his captiure ; 
he did not know that he woufd destroy the warlike spirit 
of the burghers, and that this catastrophe would be, to a 
great extent the cause of an indescribable panic among all 
the laagers in the field, not only there, but also at Coles- 
berg, Stormberg, and Ladysmith. 

" For when a man like Cronje, who was extolled above 
all, allowed himself to be captured, how was an ordinary 
burgher to have the courage to persevere? 

" On every countenance was dejection and despondency, 
and these — I am not saying too much — exercised their 
influence until the end of the war." 

The immediate result of the surrender of Cronje was 
the abandonment of the siege of Ladysmith, and the 
retreat of all the Boers in the north of Cape Colony. 



214 THE SURRENDER OF CRONJE, [Ch. XX. 

Ladysmith was relieved by General BuUer on March ist, 
and, about the same time, General Gatacre occupied Storm- 
berg Junction, whereby railway communication was 
restored between the eastern and western portions of 
Cape Colony. The English forces in Cape Colony simul- 
taneously assumed the offensive against the Boers retreat- 
ing behind the Orange River, Colonel Brabant advancing 
from Dordrecht by Jamestown on Aliwal North, General 
Gatacre from Stormberg by Burghersdorp on Bethulie, and 
General Clements from Arundel on Norval's Pont 




IQOO.] 2 I S 



CHAPTER XXI. 

Comments on the Fighting at Paardeberg, and 

General Remarks. 

The resolve of Lord Kitchener to push matters rapidly 
to a crisis, and to attack the surrounded Boers without 
loss of time, was obviously thoroughly soimd, but careful 
preparations should have been made, for it was a case 
of making a pre-determined attack on an adversary already 
in position, and well entrenched. The divisions should 
have been told off to definite points of attack, and their 
objectives should have been clearly defined both as regards 
time and place, in order that unity of action might be 
assured. The morning could have been employed in 
bringing the divisions on to their ground, and in letting 
them thoroughly reconnoitre beforehand that portion of 
the enemy's position which each was to attack; this was 
all the more necessary as it was clearly desirable to allow 
the troops, which were exhausted by their uninterrupted 
and very tiring marching, to get some more rest and a 
meal before commencing the attack. 

A most careful reconnaissance of the Boer position 
should have been followed by all the available guns pour- 
ing in a heavy and carefully ordered fire* before the 

_ _■_ ■■ ■— iir 

* The British artillery fire was so ineffective mainly because the 
reconnaissance was faulty, and the position of the Boet entrenchments^ 
concealed in the low bush, was not known. 



2l6 COMMENTS ON PAARDEBERG. [Ch. XXL 

infantry advanced to the decisive attack, which should 
have been carried out on both banks simultaneously. If 
it had appeared to be too risky to carry out the 
attack by day across the plain, which was completely 
devoid of cover, the troops might have been brought up 
on the night of February iSth-igth to within effective 
range of the Boer position, and the attack could have 
been commenced at daybreak on the iQth. 

Instead of such a carefully planned course of action* 
several isolated attacks were made without sufficient artil- 
lery support Brigades, and even battalions, were brought 
into action singly, and there resulted three different attacks, 
completely separated from one another by place and time ; 
they had no connection whatever with each other, and 
for this reason alone they had in them the germ of failure. 
The mobile Boers were, at the same time, enabled to 
move their forces from parts of the battle-field, where 
they were not very seriously threatened, to the decisive 
points, where they could appear in strength. These errors 
are to be explained by various circumstances, but 
especially by Lord Kitchener underrating the moral 
strength of his adversary. According to his view it was 
only requisite to make a resolute attack in order to induce 
the Boers to lay down their arms. When he reconnoitred 
the enemy's position early in the morning, he turned to 
the officers who accompanied him, and, drawing out his 
watch, said : " Gentlemen ! it is now half past six ; at 
ten o'clock we shall be in possession of the enem/s laager, 
and at half past ten General French will march for Bloem- 
fontein with the cavalry." His Staff also shared his view.^ 
Similar illusions about the adversary will recur in every 

• Major Watson, A.D.C. to Lord Kitchener, wrote to Lord Cromer at 
Cairo on the 19th : " It really seemed as if Cronje had no loophole of 
escape left, and that he would have to surrender within a few hours. But 
not one of us had ever imagined what a determined resistance the enemy 
'had decided to make, or the extent to which he had, in a short time, throwo 
up cover and shelter trenches. . . •" 



iQoo.] MISTAKES OF LORD KITCHENER. 217 

war. When the Prussian Guards were ordered to make 
their premature attack on St. Privat, on August i8th, 1870, 
the general commanding them erroneously imagined that 
the village was only occupied by weak bodies of the 
French, which had been abready defeated by the Ninth 
Army Corps, but which had been again led forward As a 
matter of fact, however, it was the quite fresh Sixth French 
Army Corps which was there. General von Steinmetz lay 
under a similar delusion on the same day at Gravelotte, 
when he ordered Hartmann's cavalry division, about 4 p.m., 
to advance across the Mance Ravine at Point du Jour in 
pursuit of the French, who were, in fact, by no means 
shaken. 

When it became apparent that there were serious diffi- 
culties in the way of breaking down the enemy's resistance, 
Lord Kitchener hurried matters on with a vengeance ; 
impressed with the one idea to get possession of the 
Boer laager as soon as possible, he allowed himself to be 
led astray, to the extent of throwing the battalions singly 
into action, and sacrificing Colonel Hannay's gallant 
band* According to his own showing he, like most of 

the senior British officers, had had no practice whatever 

^^^"^■^— ■-^^-.^—^■^— ^— — ^— ^».-^^^^^i^^^— — ^^-^-^^^^.^^— ^i»^_^ 

* The surprising phenomenon that the command in the battle was not 
Exercised by Lieutenant-General Kelly- Kenny, the senior officer present, 
but by Lord Kitchener, a very much younger major general, is explained 
by the peculiar regulations concerning seniority, which were remarked 
during the war. ''Local rank," that is to say, temporary promotion, was 
granted throughout the campaign. Lord Roberts was empowered to pro- 
mote any officer, whatever his real rank, to a higher one, and to give him a 
command over the heads of others, should this be desirable on military 
grounds. In both instances, however, such promotion was only temporary, 
and was valid merely during the duration of employment in the theatre of 
war. Such appointments required to be confirmed later by the Secretary 
of State for War. The Commander-in-Chief was thus in a position always 
to select, for certain difficult and important commands and duties, the 
individual who appeared to him to be the most fitted for the task. For 
instance. General Broadwood, who was a young major in the 12th Lancers, 
was made a local brigadier-general by Lord Roberts at the commencement 
of the operations, and was entrusted with the command of the second cavalry 
brigade under French. His former regiment belonged to that brigade, so 
that Major Broadwood's regimental commanding officer thus became his 
junior's subordinate. 



2l8 COMMENTS ON PAARDEBERG, [Ch. XXI. 

in the handling of large bodies of troops, and the ex- 
perience he had gained during his campaign against the 
Mahdi could not be turned to account under the com- 
pletely different conditions of the Boer war. The 
manoeuvres on a large scale, which now take place in 
England, are chiefly due to the sanguinary teachings of 
South Africa.* Even born soldiers with a great natural 
gift for command, among whom the former Chief of the 
Staff in South Africa must undoubtedly be numbered, 
require this practice in handling large bodies of troops, 
in order to properly appreciate the difficulties and friction 
connected therewith. 

That the attacks of the individual brigades and bat- 
talions were so fruitless in spite of all their bravery is to 
be ascribed above all to their wrong and fatal endeavours 
to rush the enemy's position as quickly as possible with- 
out first overwhelming him with fire. There was no 
instance of carefully prepared fire tactics, of the firing 
line being continually strengthened by troops from the 
rear; there was no instance of a strong and determined 
effort being made to acquire the ascendancy over the 
enemy's fire. This mode of procedure shows that the 
importance of fire, and the difficulties, which modem 
arms place in the way of the attacker, were by no means 
clearly grasped by the British, notwithstanding that their 
regulations bore an external resemblance to those of the 
great continental armies. 

Consequently the mode of attack could be neither 
suitable nor successful in spite of all endeavours. 

* After his brilliant victory at Omdurman, Lord Kitchener informed a 
foreign Military Attache that the training of British generals would be 
defective so long as it was not decided in England to have manoeuvres on a 
large scale. He admired the great German manoeuvres, for they afforded 
the sole means by which a general could have practice in handling large 
masses. As soon as he was appointed Commander-in-Chief in India after 
the war, and had a free hand, one of his first measures was to arrange for 
manoeuvres for the army in India on a scale never before attempted either 
in England or in one of her colonies. 



I90O.] FAULTY TACTICS. 219 

The British tactics in South Africa were subjected to con- 
tinual change, and the infantry always attacked in dif- 
ferent formations during the various phases of the war. In 
searching for the form it overlooked the essence, and the 
real cause of the failures, which consisted solely in not 
realising the importance of establishing superiority in fire. 
During the first part of the campaign the infantry tactics 
were totally different to what they were under Lord 
Roberts ; at the outset the result of the training in peace 
was a tendency towards narrow fronts, the firing line 
was extended late, and with short intervals between the 
men; the depth of the formations was great, the troops 
being disposed in several lines one behind the other, 
although proper use was not made of the reserves, and 
close order was much favoured. At Paardeberg, on the 
other hand, the breadth of front was excessive, the firing 
lines were strong, but not dense, and they were extended 
early; at times all the troops were pushed into the firing 
line almost simultaneously^ there was no formation in 
depth, and skirmishing order was alone employed when 
once within extreme range of the enemy. 

It is all the more difficult to appraise correctly the value 
of these tactics for European conditions, because an 
essential factor, in the shape of the co-operation of a power- 
ful artillery, was almost wholly wanting, especially on the 
Boer side, in most of the engagements of the South African 
war. At Paardeberg, especially, the weak Boer artillery 
was silenced immediately after the commencement of the 
battle, and had no effect whatever upon it, the British 
infantry not having been exposed at all to any artillery 
fire worth mentioning. The co-operation of the English 
guns also did not have much effect, owing to lack of recon- 
naissance, and the ignorance concerning the actual position 
of the enemy's entrenchments. For practical purposes the 
infantry received no support from thefli, and it was a 



220 COMMENTS ON PAARDEBERG. [Ch. XXI. 

particularly grave error that the battery on Signal Hill, 
which had, at first, by its very effective enfilade fire against 
the Boers at the river bend, rendered such powerful aid 
to the advance of the nineteenth brigade, should have 
at once ceased firing as soon as some of its shells fell by 
mistake among the ranks of the Highlanders. 

Of the formations adopted hy the infantry, the firing 
line which was widely extended at long range showed 
itself to be suitable for the advance across the bare plain. 
Most of the battalions managed to get within about 800 
yards or so of the enemy in this formation, without any 
loss worth speaking of, although the very clear atmosphere 
on the 1 8th allowed objects to be seen distinctly a long 
way off, and although the Boers opened a very hot 
fire when they were about a mile away.* It was the 
attempt on the part of the attackers to cross the middle 
zone of infantry fire, without themselves bringing a suffi- 
ciently powerful fire to bear, which first brought them to 
a standstill As soon as the losses accumulated in the 
thin firing line, the latter had no longer sufficient in- 
herent strength to continue its advance, and as there was 
no depth of formation, it received no fresh support from 
the rear, so that the attack was bound to collapse. A 
widely extended firing line, while favouring the approach, 
proved of itself to be imsuitable for carrying through the 
musketry fight It must be given at an early stage, such 
strength and density, by pushing in thin lines, that it will be 

* It is a common but altogether erroneous opinion that the Boers alwajrs 
allowed the English to approach within quite short range, in order to 
crush them then in the shortest possible time, by means of a well-aimed 
and overpowering fire at the most effective distance. It is true that, in 
various small combats, some Boer Commandos did venture to act thus, 
in their contempt for the bad shooting of the British infantry, and relying 
on the speed of their horses. But this was by no means the rule ; on the 
contrary, it was just at the longer ranges that the Boers understood very 
well how to utilise the superiority of modern firearms. Under European 
conditions the less mobile defender will also prefer to act thus, so as not to 
allow attackers, who shoot well^ to approach quite unmolested within short 
range. 




1900.] INFANTRY FORMATIONS: 221 

equal to the demands of a severe fire action from the outset, 
and will not begin the battle with insufficient forces, or have 
to fight against superior numbers. The thin firing line 
will, it is true, require a greater extension of front on the 
part of the smaller units when first extended But this 
will find its natural limit owing to the absolute necessity 
of having a strong formation in depth, which is of increased 
importance owing to tlie wasteful character of the modem 
battle. This imperative demand will, of itself, forbid the 
breadth of front hitherto laid down for the larger tactical 
tmits from being much exceeded. 

The fighting at Paardeberg strikingly exemplifies the 
whole significance of the principle underlying the German 
infantry regulations, namely, that the preliminaries to 
success in the modem infantry attack are great depth of 
formation, and a limited extent of front at first In this 
way only will it be possible to increase the power of the 
firing line by iminterruptedly feeding it with fresh rifles 
from the rear to such an extent that it will ultimately 
acquire the mastery.* The limits, and distances within 
which the attack should be commenced, and carried out 
nowadays, have, of course, continually increased owing 
to the improvements in fire-arms, and the struggle to get 
the upper hand in the musketry fight must take place 
at longer range than formerly. The superior fire of the 
defence will be felt especially at long ranges, and the 
invisibiUty of an adversary, who uses smokeless powder, 
will entail high demands on the moral courage of the 
attackers. These must, therefore, endeavour to approach 

* The Boers failed to recapture Kitchener's Kopje on the 23rd, notwith- 
standing their good shooting and sharp eyesight, chiefly because they had 
no depth of formation ; the long thin firing line without reserves is quite 
unsuited for carrying out a serious attack. Nor did the Boers ever succeed 
during the war in carrying through victoriously such an attack against a 
well-entrenched adversary, owing to their complete lack of tactical train- 
ing, unless they effected a surprise or were greatly aided by the ground. 



222 COMMENTS ON PAARDEBERG. [Ch. XXI. 

as rapidly as possible to within such a distance* of the 
enemy from which they can see either him or only his 
position, and bring an effective fire to bear. 

The modem attack will consist chiefly in securing posi- 
tions from which to bring fire to bear on the enemy, and 
every premature advance from them may lead to the 
extermination of the attackers, if the fire of the defenders 
has not been previously weakened. A struggle of this 
description, with all its disappointments and rebuffs, may 
continue for hours, and even days, and the attacker will 
have to try and adapt to his own use the strong points 
of the defence, and, imder certain circumstances, he must 
even have recourse to the spade. The chances in favour 
of the attack and defence will thus become, gradually, 
more evenly balanced, and, as the battle proceeds, the 
moral superiority of the advancing attacker will be aug- 
mented in proportion as the defender beg^s to get 
exhausted. + 

When once the fire of the defenders has com- 
menced to weaken, the further progress of the attack 
will vary according to the state of the action, the 
ground, the strength of the hostile fire, and the 
demeanour of the enemy. The behaviour of the English 

* This distance will vary according to the topographical conditions and 
the light. Owing to the very much more unfavourable atmospheric condi- 
tions in Europe, the ranges at which both the defenders and the attackers will 
be able to open fire will be considerably shorter in any event than was the 
case in South Africa. 

t A German officer, who was present during the action with the Boers 
in the eastern part of the river valley, declared that the dash with which 
the British advanced in that portion of the field to within about 500 yards 
created a profound moral impression on the Boers, who were solidly fixed 
in their positions. If, at that range, the British had only fired with some 
degree of effect, they would undoubtedly have succeeded in penetrating 
into the Boer position at that point, as the resistance of the Boers, who 
were opposite to them, would not have been a lengthy one. The attackers, 
instead of charging at once, should have poured in an effective fire, and 
then have charged with the whole of their cavalry. The British companies, 
however, after a short pause, again dashed forward, almost without firing, 
until within about two or three hundred yards, when they threw themselves 
down, and kept up a very weak and quite ineffective fire until the evening. 



iQoo.] INFANTRY IN ATTACK. 223 

at Paardeberg affords several instructive instances con- 
cerning the mode of advance of the firing line. They 
used every possible means to advance by running, by 
rushes, by crawling, and even by working their way for- 
wards by the use of the spade. The rushes were 
generally made by small portions of the firing Une alter* 
nately, mutually supported by the fire of the other por- 
tions, and they varied from 30 to 90 yards in extent, 
according to the strength of the Boer fire. In the opinion 
of many English ofiicers it was difficult to get the skir- 
mishers to stand up and rush forward when under the 
enemy's fire, but, once they had been induced to rise, the 
advance was continued as far as possible without reference 
to the heavier losses which were caused by the rushes 
being longer. But in no case must the preparations for 
a rush allow the enemy to discern what troops are going 
to make it 

Crawling forward was a method which had good results 
in this war for the first time in practice ; it was relatively 
rapid, and the losses which it entailed were but small* 
The mode of attack sometimes adopted successfully by 
the Boers was as follows: A man would crawl forward, 
scarcely raising his body, half or his whole length, while 
his neighbour fired; they then changfed their parts, and 
this was continued iminterruptedly. The firing line 
was thus shooting continuously, while it advanced slowly, 
but without halting, in a stealthy kind of manner. 
This appears to have had a disquieting and paralysing 
effect on the defenders, who were bound to their 
own position; the nearer the creeping, snakelike line 
approached them, and the less they were able to inflict 
perceptible loss on the small, prone targets, the stronger 



* At medium and decisive ranges all reinforcements for the firing line 
crawled over the last 80 or 100 yards, but, otherwise, they generally 
advanced by rushes. 



224 COMMENTS ON PAARDEBERG. [Ch, XXI. 

did this feeling become, especially as the defenders them- 
selves were under effective fire the whole time. A German 
officer, who accompanied the attack of the Boers at 
Nitrals Nek, where they employed these tactics, has 
described their effect upon the British in the following 
very instructive terms: "When, firing and crawling the 
whole time, we had thus crept to within about 300 yards 
of the enemy, we saw him waving a number of white 
handkerchiefs as a token of surrender; but as, in con- 
sequence of many an evil experience, we had no longer 
any faith in these signs of submission, we continued to 
crawl forward. It was not until we saw that most of the 
British soldiers were throwing away their arms, that we 
stood up in order to take them prisoners. When we 
got up to them, I observed that many men were utterly 
unnerved. I expressed my astonishment later to the 
English officers at the moral condition of their troops, and 
they replied that our stealthy mode of advance was to 
blame for it The feeling on seeing the danger approach- 
ing nearer and nearer, without being able to ward it off, 
was uncommonly depressing, and alarming for the troops ; 
for the Boers, who were creeping forward tmder cover of 
the boulders, afforded so unfavourable a target, that the 
fire of the British had but little effect, whereas they were 
constantly being shot at by the enemy. All this con- 
tributed to destroy the nerves of the troops." 

This and many other instances show that greater atten- 
tion should be paid than formerly to crawling forward 
when advancing at short ranges across ground devoid of 
cover. The firing line must represent a kind of continually 
advancing roll of fire, which is in constant movement, 
without the individual soldier affording a favourable target 
to the enemy. When advancing across a perfectly flat 
country it may even happen occasionally that, in some 
places, victory will be sought for not in the charge, but 




igoa] EFFECT OF MUSKETRY FIRE. 22$ 

in this method of creeping forward under cover of an 
unceasing fire. The approach by means of the spade 
was carried out relatively quickly, especially in the 
case of the nineteenth brigade, and, at first, work was 
carried on throughout the whole day ; the infantry, which 
was thus employed lying down, suffered hardly any 
loss ; a portion of the men were digging, while a thin firing: 
line, close in front, protected them. The Royal Canav 
dians adopted this method during their attack in the 
early morning of February 27th. 

Both on that occasion, as also during the action on the 
1 8th, and in later engagements as well, this very re- 
markable phenomenon was observed, that the losses 
at the close ranges of two, three, and four himdred 
yards were very much less than at the longer distances. 
The British officers considered the explanation of this 
to be that, at short ranges, the Boers thought it too 
dangerous to raise their heads above cover in order to 
take aim, as soon as the adversary was in position and 
had begim to fire; they used to duck their heads, and 
pull the trigger without aiming, and they only ventured 
to raise their heads again above cover when the English 
stood up for a fresh advance.* 

It seems strange, at first sight, that, after the British 
had succeeded in approaching so close to the Boer posi- 
tion in all parts of the battle-field on the evening of the 
1 8th, they should have retired during the night, and have 
abandoned all the advantages so hardly won, instead of 
making use of the darkness to entrench themselves in 
order to attack again early on the 19th. The explanation 
is certainly to be found partly in the total moral, and 
physical exhaustion of the troops, but, above all, in the 
shaken confidence of officers and men in their own ability ; 
they did not believe that they could carry through an 

* This fact has also been confirmed by a combatant on the Boer side. 

Q 



226 COMMENTS ON PAARDEBERG. [Ch. XXI. 

attack against defenders armed with a small calibre rifle. 
On the following day, when he was labouring imder the 
depressing influence of the bloody, and yet, in spite of 
all the sacrifices which had been made, fruitless attacks, 
even Lord Kitchener said to Captain Sloctun, the American 
Military Attache: "If I had known yesterday morning 
what I know to-day, I would not have attacked the Boers 
in the river valley; it is impossible against the modem 
rifle." When Lord Roberts arrived on the morning of the 
19th, he also forbade any further attack. 

With the fruitless, yet by no means especially costly 
attacks at Pciardeberg, there began to spread a nervous- 
ness of suffering loss,* and of making an attack which 
bore bad fruit far beyond the limits of South Africa, 
while one substantial reason for the long duration of 
the war was, undoubtedly, the timorous avoidance of 
striking any crushing blow at the Boers. The action of 
the Commander-in-Chief in prohibiting any further attacks 
at Paardeberg was also in no way justified by the mihtary 
situation ; this, on the contrary, called for a speedy settle- 
ment of the crisis, in view of the threatened assembly 
of Boer forces in rear of the British, and the increasing 
difficulties in the way of supply. 

The prospects of Cronje being able to break through, 
desperate as his position seemed, were very favourable 
in the night of February 1 8th- 19th, on the 19th itself, 
and even during the succeeding days so long as 
Kitchener's Kopje was in possession of de Wet. But 
the latter should certainly have helped General Cronje 
in his resolve to escape by a greater display of 
activity. It was especially a grave error that, when he 
had captured Kitchener's Kopje, which was so important 



• During the later course of the war orders to attack, issued by Lord 
Roberts, are said to have often contained the words : " If this be possible 
without heavy loss." 



I900.] EFFECT OF LYDDITE. 22/ 

a point tactically, at such slight cost, on the afternoon of 
the 1 8th, he should have remained there more or less 
inactive, instead of at once attacking the rear of the 
sixth division, which was fully occupied in fighting the 
Boers in the valley of the river. That period of the after- 
noon was, without doubt, the most critical of all during 
the whole day for the British; it would have been easy 
to penetrate through their thin fighting Une, and for 
Cronje to escape. But both de Wet and the Commandos, 
which were assembling to the east and south-east, should 
have been more enterprising during the days which fol- 
lowed ; expeditions against the long Line of Communica- 
tions, which was almost unprotected, could have cut off 
the supplies of the British troops held fast by Cronje, 
and could have rendered their situation extremely 
precarious. 

While the Boer laager was being bombarded the 
preponderance of the English artillery was so over- 
whelming,* that it is simply impossible to appraise cor- 
rectly the power of the various British guns. The lyddite 
shells of the howitzer batteries, and of the naval guns, of 
which so much had been expected in England, proved 
themselves to be of little use for field service, although 
it must not be forgotten that the dry and sandy soil of 
the Modder River banks was little favourable to any kind 
of percussion shells. Their effect on the well entrenched 
Boers was very small ; when they burst they usually made 
a most diabolical noise, but the fragments were very few 
in number, and the shells made holes in the sandy groimd 
about two feet wide and one foot deep. Originally they 
had been intended only for naval warfare, where they 
may certainly produce a powerful effect by means of 
their unwholesome gases and the concussion of the 

* The British had 91 guns at the last, but the Boers only had 6, of which 
4 could not be fired after the 20th, as their ammunition had been destroyed. 

Q a 



228 COMMENTS ON PAARDEBERG. [Ch. XXI. 

air, when they burst in an enclosed space. In a 
battle on land, however, the gases evaporate rapidly 
in the atmosphere, and the Boers soon accustomed them- 
selves to their deafening noise. One who fought on their 
side has described their effect from his own experience 
in the following terms : ** The lyddite shells had, as a 
rule, no effect whatever on men lying down ; I have been 
present myself when Boers had their clothes scorched by 
bursting lyddite projectiles, but only had their skin 
scratched. . . . The Boers had very little respect for 
the British artillery fire, especially for its lyddite fire. 
The moral effect, which had been, perhaps, expected from 
the din of these shells was nil. Coffee was often prepared 
outside the shelters while lyddite firing was going on. 
After all moral effect is really the child of material 
success ; a weapon which hits something will acquire the 
former, whether it makes much or little noise. One gets 
accustomed very quickly to the most frightful things, on 
seeing that they do no harm." 

Major Albrecht, the Commandant of the Free State 
Artillery, who was captured, expressed himself in similar 
terms to English officers. He said that the moral effect 
of the lyddite shells was great, at first, but that it was 
soon discovered that it was only necessary to throw one's 
self down in order to remain unhurt, even in the case of 
explosions close at hand, and the fear, which these shells 
inspired, quickly disappeared in consequence. If, on the 
other hand, a shell did happen to burst in an entrench- 
ment, then the effect was certainly devastating. 

The Vickers-Nordenfelt machine guns, or " pom-poms," 
as the English termed them on account of their con- 
tinuous noise in action, exercised, however, for this reason 
an extraordinarily demoralising effect on the nerves, 
especially of the British infantry. The three Vickers- 
Maxim guns, which it was so ardently awaiting, did not 



1900.] PERSONAL FRICTION, 229 

reach Paardeberg until February 26th, so that they were 
scarcely made use of. 

The galling supersession of General Kelly-Kenny by 
Lord Kitchener, his junior, had a sequel after the surrender 
of Cronje. The former had obeyed the orders of Lord 
Roberts without demur, but, in his Despatch, he alluded 
to the matter by stating that, with reference to his position 
and that of Lord Kitchener, he "fully understood what 
was meant This is not the time to mention personal 
matters, and until the present operations are concluded 
I prefer to subject myself to any humiliation rather than 
raise the question of the command. . . ." 

His demeanour towards Lord Kitchener was so perfect 
throughout, that the latter did not even suspect that 
General Kelly-Kenny was dissatisfied. It is said that the 
external rielations between the two were excellent during 
the period in question. After Cronje surrendered there 
was a personal explanation between Lord Roberts and 
General Kelly-Kenny, which afforded complete satisfac* 
tion to the latter. 

General von Goeben acted in a similar manner when 
he had a personal quarrel with General von Steinmetz on 
August 1 8th, 1870. He wrote to his wife on the 27th: 
"Our differences of long standing culminated at last in 
a violent personal quarrel during the battle of the i8th, 
when I, having lost my temper, repudiated his pretensions 
altogether, and turned my back on him." Although 
Goeben had been the injured one, he did not report the 
affair to the King, because " complaints imder such circtmi- 
stances in the field should be avoided as far as possible." 
He preferred shortly afterwards to " effect a reconciliation 
(with Steinmetz) during the course of a lengthy personal 
explanation." 

Military history affords many instances of similar friction 
arising just at times of extreme tension, and of the success 



230 COMMENTS ON PAARDEBERG. [Ch. XXI. 

of the operations being only too frequently jeopardised 
by such personal dissensions or claims. General Kelly- 
Kenny fulfilled a simple soldierly duty by putting all 
personal considerations on one side for the good of the 
service, at a moment when the situation itself was 
causing quite enough friction and difficulties. The true 
greatness of a strong soldierly character is shown in such 
modest demeanour and renunciation of self, so necessary 
in the settlement of such quarrels, at times when the 
situation causes of itself great mental and moral strain. 



APPENDICES. 



PART I. 



COLENSO AND MAGERSFONTEIN. 



232 



APPENDIX /. 








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PART II. 



RELIEF OF KIMBERLEY AND 

PAARDEBERG. 



R 



242 



APPENDIX I. 

DISTRIBUTION AND STRENGTH OF THE BRITISH FORCES 
IN SOUTH AFRICA ON JANUARY 31, 1900. 



A.— IN NATAL. 



Regiments or Corps. 



Strength. 



Total. 



I. At Ladysmith. 

Cova/rv : 4 Regiments 

ilr^/^ry : 6 Batteries R.F. A. 

Infantry: 11 Battalions 

3. Between the Tugbla and Durban. 

Cavalry: 2f Regiments 

Artillery : 

I Battery R.HA 

7i Batteries R.F.A. 

I Mountain Battery 

I Howitzer Battery 

Infantry: 5^ Brigades ... ... ... 

Other Infantry ... 

Colonial Troops : 

Field Artillery 

Mounted Troops 

Dismounted Troops 

Volunteers ... ... ... ... ... 



Total 



Engineer Troops 

Transport and Dep6t Troops ... 



1, 300 

36 guns 

7»S00 



Grand Total 
N.B.— The number of sick is not known. 



1,100 

6 guns 
44 II 

6„ 

16,500 
800 




1.200 

36 guns 
1,080 

7.SOO 



1,100 



62 guns 
1,800 






i 



17.300 

22 guns 
550 

2,300 
2,000 



34,830 men 
120 guns 

1,100 
1.472 



I 37,402 men 
) 120 guns 




APPENDIX I. 



243 



B.— IN CAPE COLONY. 



Regiments or Corps. 




Total. 



Cava/ry : 8i Regiments , 

Artillery : 

ositteries Iv.ri.A» •.• ••• .»• ... ••• 

la Batteries R.F.A. 

2 Howitzer Batteries 

2 Co/s R.G.A. with 8 6-inch Howitzers and 4 

4*7-inch Guns 

1 Co. R.G.A. with 6 5-inch Siege Guns 

Mounted Infantry 



Infantry : 

1st Brigade ... 
3rd „ 
9th „ 
13th „ 
14th „ 



i8th 



II 



Other Infantry, inclusive of 925 men of the 
Canadian Contingent 

Colonial Troops : 
Mounted Troops from Cape Colony 
From other Colonies 
Volunteers from Cape Colony 

Engineer Troops 

Transport and DepSt Troops ... 

Sick (not included above) 

Total 



4,196 

48 guns 
7a 
12 
12 



II 



It 



II 



II 



4,196 



^ ISO guns 
^ 4.500 



3.050 



3754 

3.121 

2i7S4 
2.885 
3.322 
3,6ox 

»4i37a 



3.050 



33.809 



• • • 

• • • 


2,000 
1.38s 


1 


3.385 


• • • 


2,960 




2,960 


t •• 


2,000 




2,000 


• • • 


4.278 




4.278 


• • • 


2,000 




2,000 


• • • 


• • • 


1 


50,296 men 
150 guns 



Grand Total of the British Field Army ( ^^ ,^q ^^^ ^^ , ^ ^ 
in Snnfh Africa ^ 97.^ men and 270 guns. 



1 



R 2 



244 



APPENDIX 11. 



I. 

Cape Town, 

January 26M, 1900. 
NOTES FOR GUIDANCE IN SOUTH AFRICAN WARFARE. 

Infantry — 

As it is desirable that full advantage should be taken of the 
experience gained during the past three months by our troops in 
South Africa, the following notes are issued for the guidance of 
all who may find themselves in command of a force (large or 
small) on service in the field. 

We have to deal with an enemy possessing remarkable mobility, 
intimately acquainted with the country, thoroughly understanding 
how to take advantage of ground, adept in improvising cover, 
and most skilful in the use of their weapons. 

Against such an enemy any attempt to take a position by direct 
attack will assuredly fail. The only hope of success lies in being 
able to turn one or both flanks, or, what would in many instances 
be equally effective, to threaten to cut the enemy's line of com- 
munication. Before any ])lan of attack can be decided upon the 
position must be carefully examined by reconnoitring parties, and 
every endeavour must be made to obtain all possible information 
about it from the people of the country. It must, however, be 
remembered that the position ostensibly occupied is not always 
the one the Boers intend to defend ; it is often merely a decoy, a 
stronger position in the vicinity having previously been prepared 
upon which they move rapidly, and from which they can frequently 
bring a destructive fire to bear upon the attacking line. Their 
marvellous mobility enables them to do this without much risk to 
themselves, and also to be in strength at any point of the position 
that may be seriously threatened. It follows, therefore, that our 
object should be to cripple the mobility of the Boers, and to effect 
this, next to inflicting heavy losses on the men themselves, the 
surest means would be the capture or destruction of their horses. 

When the extreme rifle range from the position is reached 
(1,500 to 1,800 yards) by the advance troops, or before if they 
find themselves under artillery fire, all column formations must 
be given up, and when advancing to the attack of the position 
infantry must be freely extended, even, on occasions, if necessary, 
to six or eight paces, the front and both flanks being well covered 



APPENDIX IL 245 

with scouts. This extended formation will throw increased re- 
sponsibility on battalion and company commanders. The objec- 
tive aimed at, therefore, should be carefully explained to them. 
They should be allowed to make use of any opportunity that may 
offer to further the scheme, on the distinct understanding that no 
isolated acts are attempted, such as might endanger the general 
plan. During the attack commanding officers must be careful 
not to lose touch with the troops on their right and left, and they 
should, as far as possible, ensure their co-operation. Every 
advantage should be taken of cover, and battalion and company 
commanders should look out for and occupy positions from which 
they would be able to bring an enfilading fire to bear upon the 
enemy. The capacity of these officers will be judged by the 
initiative displayed in seizing rapidly every opportunity to further 
the general scheme of attack. 

An essential point, and one which must never be lost sight of, 
is the power of endurance of the infantry soldier. If infantry 
soldiers, carrying as they do a considerable weight on their backs, 
are called upon to march a longer distance than can reasonably 
be expected from men in a normal state of health, or if they are 
injudiciously pressed as regards the pace, they will necessarily 
commence to feel the strain before they reach a point where their 
best energies are required to surmount the difficulties which lie 
before them. If at such a period a man feels exhausted, moral 
deterioration, and the consequences to our arms which such 
deterioration entails, must readily supervene. 

Artillery — 

As a general rule the Artillery appear to have adapted them- 
selves to the situation, and to the special conditions which 
present themselves in a campaign in South Africa. 

The following points, however, require to be noticed : — 

1. At the commencement of an action artillery should not 
be ordered to take up a position until it has been ascertained 
by scouts to be clear of the enemy, and out of range of 
infantry fire. 

2. When it is intended to take a position with infantry 
the preparation by artillery should be thorough and not 
spasmodic. Unless a strong force of infantry is pushed 
within 900 yards of the position, the enemy will not occupy 
his trenches, and the guns will have no target. It is a mere 
waste of ammunition also to bombard an entrenchment when 
the infantry attack is likely to be delayed, even for a short 
time. To be of real value the fire of the guns should be 
continuous until the assault is about to be delivered. 

3. The expenditure of ammunition is a matter which can 
only be regulated by the circumstances of the movement ; 



246 APPENDIX II, 

officers commanding should, however, always bear in mind 
that the supply of artillery ammunition in the field is neces- 
sarily limited. 

4. It is of great importance that artillery horses should be 
kept fit for any special effort. They are not easily replaced, 
and it is the duty of artillery officers to represent to the 
commander of the column whenever they consider that their 
horses are being unduly worked, as regards either pace or 
distance. 

Cavalry and Mounted Troops. 

Similarly with cavahy horses. Every endeavour should be 
made to save them as much as possible, ior unless this is done 
they cannot be expected to la^t through a lengthened campaign. 

The men sfhould dismount on every available opportunity, if 
for a few minutes only at a time, and, on the line of march, it 
will be advantageous for them to occasionally lead instead of 
riding their horses. 

Horses should be fed at short intervals, and not allowed to be 
kept too long without water. A sufficiency of grain is necessary 
to enable horses to withstand hard work, but they will never keep 
in condition unless they have an ample supply of hay or some 
bulky equivalent. 

On the line of march scouting must be carried out by the 
mounted troops in the most searching manner, in front and on 
both fianks. All high ground should be visited, and, whenever 
practicable, horsemen should ride along ridges and hills. As 
soon as parties of the enemy are observed, the mounted troops 
(after sending back word to the commander) should make a 
considerable detour round the position occupied by the Boets, 
endeavour to estimate their numbers, and to ascertain where 
their horses have been left. They should also see whether, by 
threatening the Boers* line of communication, they would not be 
forced to fight on groimd imprepared for defence. 

(Signed) RO B E RTS, Field- Marshal, 

Commandiijf 'in-Chief, South Africa, 

II. 

Cape Town, 

February ^Ih, 1900. 

NOTES FOP GUIDANCE IN SOUTH AFRICAN WARFARE. 

Cavalry — 

I. On reconnaissances or patrols not likely to be prolonged 
beyond one day, the cavalry soldier's equipment should be 
lightened as much as possible, nothing being taken that can 
possibly be dispensed with. 



y 



^ 



APPENDIX 11. 247 

3. It has been brought to my notice that our cavalry move 
too slowly when on reconnaissance duty, and that unnecessary 
long halts are made, the result being that the enemy, although 
starting after the cavalry, are able to get ahead of it I could 
understand this if the country were close and difficult, but between 
the Modder and the Orange rivers its general features are such as 
to admit of small parties of cavalry accompanied by field guns 
being employed with impunity. 

Artillery — 

3. If the enemy's guns have, in some instances, the advantage 
of ours in range, we have the advantage of theirs in mobility, and 
we should make use of this by not remaining in positions, the 
precise distance of which from the enemy's batteries has evidently 
been fixed beforehand. Moreover, it has been proved that the 
Boer's fire is far less accurate at unknown distances. In taking 
up positions compact battery formations should be avoided. The 
guns should be opened out, or it may be desirable to advance by 
sections or batteries. Similarly, retirements should be carried 
out at considerably increased mtervals, by alternate batteries or 
sections if necessary, and care should be taken to travel quickly 
through the danger zone of hostile artillery fire. 

The following plan, frequently adopted by the Boers, has 
succeeded in deceiving our artillery on several occasions : Suppose 
*' A " to be a gun emplacement, the gun firing smokeless powder; 
simultaneously with the discharge of the gun at " A," a powder 
flask of black powder will be exploded at " B," a hill in rear, 
leading us to direct our projectile on " B." Careful calculation 
with a watch, however, will defeat this plan. 

Infantry — 

4. The present open formation renders it difficult for officers 
to exercise command over their men, except such as may be in 
their immediate vicinity. A remedy for this would appear to be 
a system of whistle cails, by which a company Ipng in extended 
order could obey orders as readily as if in quarter column. I 
invite suggestions for such a system of whistle calls as would be 
useful. 

5. It is difficult to recognise officers as equipped at present, 
and it seems desirable they should wear a distinguishing mark of 
some kind, either on the collar at the back of the neck, or on the 
back of the coat. 

6. Soldiers, when under fire, do not take sufficient advantage 
of the sandy nature of the soil to construct cover for themselves. 
If such soil is scraped even with a canteen lid, a certain amount 
of cover firom rifle fire can be obtained in a short time. 



248 APPENDIX 11. 

7. The distribution of ammunition to the firing line is one of 
the most difficult problems of modem warfare. One solution 
which has been suggested to me, is for a portion of the supports 
gradually to creep forward until a regular chain of men is estab- 
lished from the supports — ^where the ammunition carts should be 
— right up to the firing line. The ammunition could then be 
gradually worked up by hand till it reached the firing line, where 
it could be passed along as required. Tliis would, no doubt, be 
a slow method of distributing ammunition, but it appears to be an 
improvement on the present method, which is almost impossible 
to carry out under fire. 

8. Reports received suggest that the Boers are less likely to 
hold entrenchments on the plain with the same tenacity and 
courage as they display when defending kopjes ; and it is stated 
that this applies especially to night time, if they know that 
British infantry are within easy striking distance from them. 
How far this is true time only can show. 

(Signed) ROBERTS, Field Marshal, 

Commanding'tft'Chief, South Africa, 



III. 

Extracts from the Standing Orders and Instructions issued 
to the Sixth Infantry Division by order of Lieutenant^ 
General Kelly-Kenny. 

1. The General Officer Commanding wishes to impress on all 
ranks the necessity of bringing common sense to bear in the 
execution of Regulations and Instructions. 

2. It is not by a blind adherence to the rules of war, as evolved 
from the lessons of the past, that success can be commanded. 
It is necessary to consider how far our teaching must be modified 
to meet the altered conditions caused by — 

(a) Smokeless powder. 

(d) Increased mobility on the part of an enemy, due to the 
mounting of his entire infantry. 

3. The result of these two factors tends to greatly increase the 
power of the defence. It is well nigh impossible to locate with 
any degree of certainty the exact spot held by a cunning enemy, 
whose positions are no longer betrayed by smoke ; moreover, his 
increased mobility enables him, with comparative impunity, to 
extend his line of defence to an extent that renders it extremely 
difiicult for an opponent, not possessing equal mobility, to out- 
flank him. 



APPENDIX II. 249 

4. In the application of Regulations and Instructions the above 
points must be taken into consideration, together with the lessons 
that may be deduced from a study of Boer strategy and tactics 
during the present campaign. 

5. The Boers have displayed considerable ability in the — 
(a) Choice of defensive positions, 
f^) Distribution of their forces and guns in such positions. 
\c) Mobility of their imits. 

[d) Obtaining intelligence of their opponents* movements 
and intentions. 

(e) Laying of ambuscades. 

6. Up to the present, however, they appear to have been 
generally unable to— 

{a) Follow up a success by counter-attacking after repelling 

an attack. 
{b) Seriously assault a defensive position ; in fact their rdk 

has been, from a strategiod point of view, to adopt 

the offensive, and from a tactical point of view, the 

passive defensive. 

7. To meet the altered conditions of warfare with existing 
organisation it is necessary — 

(a) To sacrifice depth for increased length of front. 

(b) To utilise mobile troops for reinforcing the troops in 

front when required, for turning movements, and for 
destroying or capturing the enemy's horses, so as to 
impair their mobility. 
{c) In attacking, to select such portions of the enemy's line 
of defence as offer chances of obtaining natural cover 
within the fire zone, and where it would be possible 
to take up a temporary defensive position ; such posi- 
tions, seized before nightfall, might be reinforced 
after dark, and strongly entrenched. 

The result of sacrificing depth for increased length of front will 
be to throw greater responsibility on commanding officers and 
company commanders, for the greater the length of front occupied 
by a given force the greater fiie difficulty of supervision by the 
higher commanders. 

The initiative, as opportunities occiu:, must of necessity often 
be with the commander on the spot, whose capacity will be 
judged by his ability to seize such opportunities as arise, without 
attempting isolated acts such as might seriously endanger the 
general plan of attack or defence. He must be careful not to 
lose touch of the troops on his right and left, and as far as 
possible ensure their co-operation. 

8. All ranks must be impressed with the vital necessity of 
meeting cunning with cunning, and while avoiding traps to lay 
them for the enemy. 



250 APPENDIX II. 

9. Too much imjpoftance cannot be laid on the necessity of 
concealing the positions and movements of troops from the 
enemy. A few officers or men exposing themselves to view may 
upset the most carefully laid scheme. In advancing to the attack 
of a position the men should be taught to make use of every 
irregularity of the ground cover, however slight, that may offer 
itself, and to work in much more extended formations than 
hitherto taught 

10. The atmospheric conditions in South Africa differ so essen- 
tially from those at home, that every opportunity should be taken 
to practise officers and men in judging distances. 

The excessive clearness of the African atmosphere, especially 
on the higher veldt, makes objects appear nearer than they reaUy 
are. It is only by constant practice that men accustomed to 
judge distance at home can hope to approach to any degree of 
accuracy in South Africa. 



251 



APPENDIX III. 

STRENGTH OF THE FORCE FOR THE RELIEF 

OF KIMBERLEY. 



(A.)— Cavalry Divlsioii. 






i.-<:avalry. 








1st Brigade — 

2nd Dragoons 

6th Dragoon Ghiards 

I Squadron 6th Dragoons 

I ,, New South Wales Lancers 


... 
... 
••• 

... 


Officers. 

as 
26 

4 
7 


N.CO.^s 
aad Men. 

458 

447 

lOS 

87 


Horses 

45a 

445 
120 

106 


I t, 14th Hussars 


... 


4 


141 


137 


2nd Brigade — 
Composite Regiment Household Cavalry 
loth Hussars ••• ••• ••• ••• 

I2th Lancers ..• ... ... ... 


••• 
••• 

•*• 


as 

32 

21 


488 

437 
492 


Saa 

477 
539 


3rd Brigade — 
9th Lancers ... ... ... 

i6th Lancers ... ... ... •.• 


... 


a3 
a4 


440 
445 


43a 
426 



Total ... 



181 3,540 3,646 



2.-7 BATTERIES ROYAL HORSE ARTILLERY. 
35 Officers, 1,280 N.C.O.'s and Men, 1,401 Horses. 



3.— MOUNTED INFANTRY. 



1st Regiment 






t«« 350 all ranks 


3rd Regiment 






220 „ 


Roberts' Horse 






... 380 „ 


New Zealand Mounted Infantry ••• 






120 „ 


Queensland Mounted Infantry ... 






140 „ 


Rimington's Guides 






205 »* 



Total ... .. 

(B.>— ist Division. 
Brigade op Guards— 

3rd Grenadier Guards 

1st Coldstream Guards • 

2nd Coldstream Guards 

ist Scots Guards ... ••• 

9th Brigade— 

ist Northumberland Fusiliers 

1st Loyal North Lancashire 

2nd Northamptonshire 

2nd Yorkshire Light Infantry 

Divisional Troops • 

Total •■• ••! 



M15 



If 



Officers. N.C.O.*s and Men. 



a4 


939 


^S 


950 


20 


918 


»s 


957 


20 


597 


a4 


423 


a7 


823 


^S 


815 


28 


851 



ai8 



7,273 



252 



APPENDIX III. 



(C4)— 6th Division. 



13th Brigade — 

2nd East Kent Regiment (Buffs) 

2nd Gloucestershire Regiment 

1st West Riding • 

1st Oxfordshire Light Infantry 

1 8th Brigade (minus the 2nd Warwickshire Regt.) — 

1st Yorkshire Regiment 

1st Essex Regiment ... •»• ... ..* 

ist Welch Regiment 

Divisional Troops 

Total ... ... 

(D.)— 7th Division. 

14th Brigade — 

1st King's Own Scottish Borderers 

2nd Norfolk Regiment 

2nd Lincolnshire Regiment 

2nd Hampshire Regiment 

15th Brigade — 

1st East Lancashire Regiment 

2nd Cheshire Regiment ... 

2nd South Wales Borderers 

2nd North Staffordshire Regiment 

Divisional Troops 

Total 



Officers. N.C.O.'s and Men. 



18 


787 


23 


717 


23 

20 


790 
596 


21 


954 


23 

33 


937 
876 


38 


1,008 



189 



6,6Ss 



950 all ranks. 

814 

858 

700 



910 
830 
961 
700 

920 



7.643 



(E.)— 9th Division. 



Officers. N.C.O.'s and Men. 



3rd Brigade (minus the Highland Light Infantry)— 



2nd Royal Hif^hlanders (Black Watch) 

2nd Seaforth Highlanders 

1st Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders 
19th Brigade — 
2nd Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry 
2nd King's Shropshire Light Infantry... 
1st Gordon Highlanders 
2nd Royal Canadian Regiment 

Divisional Troops 

Total ... 



X9 
20 

22 


714 
832 

80s 


21 

24 

24 

40 


801 
889 

839 
878 


26 


743 



196 



6,501 



(F.)— Corps Troops. 

{a) Mounted Infantry* (in all), at first, from 

\b) Naval Brigade 

(c) Other Troops (Artillery, Engineers, Ammunition 

It arK, ObC. J ((« ... ... ... ... ... I fO^O 



3,000—4,000 all ranks. 
476 „ 



» 



>» 



Total 5i54^ 

The average Strength from February nth to February 27th was, in round 
numbers, 40,000 of all ranks, and 15,000 horses. 



* Inclusive of the detachment with the Cavalry Division. 



APPENPIX IV. 



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26 1 



APPENDIX V. 



Headquarters, Jacobsdal, 

February \(ithy 1900. 
Hour.* 

The 19th brigade (Major-General Smith- Dorrien) will march at 
3 o*clock to-morrow morning from Jacobsdal to Brown's Drift, 
and from there, if there should be water available, further at the 
discretion of the Brigadier. 

The brigade will be accompanied by those of the City Imperial 
Volunteers, who are now at Jacobsdal, and also by the 65th and 
82nd batteries, together with their ammunition column. 

The 3rd (Highland) brigade will march at 3 a.m. from Wegdraai 
Drift to Brown's Drift, and, if necessary, further, accompanied by 
those of the City Imperial Volunteers now at Wegdraai. 

The 14th brigade, together with all the troops now at Wegdraai 
Drift (with the exception of the City Imperial Volunteers and 
Kitchener's Horse), will march at 3 a.m. for Klip Drift, under 
Lieutenant-General Tucker. Kitchener's Horse will accompany 
the 3rd (Highland) brigade on the march, and will then be attached 
to Major-General Knox's brigade (the 13th). 

The half company of the Pontoon troop now at Wegdraai Drift 
will park its pontoons on arrival at Jacobsdal, and will hand over 
the wagons and oxen to the '' general transport." 

For the Commander-in-Chief, 

(Signed) W. KELLY. 

Jacobsdal, 

February 16 f A, 1900. 
7.20 p.m. 

The General Officer commanding the 9th division will march 
at once with the 19th brigade and the divisional troops to Klip 
Drift, and from there along the south bank of the river to Klip 
Kraal Drift (distance 16 miles). 

The 3rd (Highland) brigade will march for Klip Kraal Drift 
(distance 16 miles) immediately on receipt of this order. Guides 
accompany the officer, who is the bearer of this order. 

The mounted infantry at Wegdraai Drift, with the exception of 
Kitchener's Horse and the City Imperial Volunteers, who are to 
come to Jacobsdal, will accompany the 3rd brigade. 

All the other troops at Wegdraai will march early to-moirow 
with Lieutenant- General Tucker and the 14th brigade to JacobsdaL 

This order cancels the one previously issued. 

(Signed) W. KELLY, 

For the Commander-in-Chief. 

* The hour was not filled in. The order reached the 9th divisioa at 
midday. 



APPENDIX VI. 



INFANTRY LOSSES AT PAARDEBERG ON FEBRUARY i8. 
1900. 





Officni. 


N.C-O". 


1 




Total. 


"^T^ 


Regiment. 


1 


1 
1 


i 


1 


MiulnK. 


1 




1 


J 


andTheBuffj 


_ 


, 


a 


16 


— 


_ 


, 


18 


fi a-3 


■nd GlouceMershire Regiment 


_ 


- 


5 


20 


- 


- 


- 


35 


- 


35 


lit W«fit Riding Regiment ... 


- 


3W 


aa 


98(4) 


- 


- 


3 


lao 


'3 


IS 




a 


4(1) 


S 


ay 


- 


■ 


** 


33 


30 


6 


lit Yoikshite Regiment 


I 


4 


37 


83 


- 


4 




124 


3A 


>3 


lit Welch Regiment 


- 


5 


9 


69 W 


- 


3 




81 


aa 


9 


Itt Essex Regiment 


- 


1 


10 


44 


- 


- 




54 


4 


6 


»nd Black Watch 


_ 


4 


"9 


7' 


- 


- 




9° 


31 


ta 


andSeaforthHighlanden ., 


I 


6 


50 


96 


- 


, 


7 


'47 


35 


18 


■It Argyll and Sutherland .. 


1 


1 


'5 


39 


- 


- 


2 


54 


9 


6 


Jlnd Duke of Cornwall's L'tinf 


3 


4 


03 


53 


- 


- 




76 


33 


9-5t 




- 


5 


8 


37 


_ 


_ 




45 


ao-8 


5 




- 


2 


a 


'5 


- 


- 




»7 


8 


a 


and Royal Canadian Regiment 


- 


• 


ai 


63 


- 


- 


■ 


83 


35 


95 


Total 


8 


41 


aaS 


730 


- 


9 


49 


967 


- 


- 



■ Plgnrmln bi»dMI*(l(nlfrii»rtallj«onDdc4. 
* Tbt l«w OB p. 14s nf«i to tbc i hut. 



263 



APPENDIX VII. 



NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN THE BRITISH HEAD- 
QUARTERS AND GENERAL CRONJE. 

Negotiations on February 19th, 1900. 

1. Cronje wrote to French asking for a 24 hours' armistice in 
order to bury the dead and collect the wounded. 

2. French's reply (presumably composed by Lord Kitchener) : — 

" I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your 
letter of to-day's date, and have forwarded your request to 
the Commander-in-Chief of the British army. I wQl com- 
municate with you as soon as I receive his reply. Meanwhile 
I will not attack your laager. As you are already completely 
surrounded, I would advise you to surrender with your 
troops, when peace will again reign in the land. 

(Signed) "J. D. P. French/' 

On receipt of this letter numerous Boers lefl their positions and 
came out into the open. 

When Lord Roberts arrived he consulted the generals, with the 
result that a letter was sent to Cronje about noon, in which Lord 
Roberts broke off the armistice and demanded the unconditional 
surrender of the Boers. 

Cronje wrote at i p.m. as follows : — " Since you are so unmer- 
ciful as not to accord me the time asked for, nothing remains for 
me to do but as you wish.'' 

Lord Roberts replied at 2 p.m. : — *• Accept surrender, please 
return with Captain Liebmann." 

Captain Liebmann, the bearer of this note, was fired at on his 
way to the laager, although he was provided with a fag of truce 
visible from afar, and the horse of the man who accompanied him 
was shot. The 3rd brigade, which had received orders to disarm 
the Boers, was also fired at on its march to the laager ; as the 
men lay down at once they suffered no loss. 

Captain Liebmann brought back the following answer from 
Cronje : — 

"Since you are so unmerciful as not to accord me the 
time asked for, nothing remains for me to do. You do as 
you wish. During my life-time I shall never surrender. If 
you wish to bombard, fire away. — Dixi." 

Hostilities — it was then 3 p.m. — recommenced. 



264 APPENDIX VII. 

Negotiations on February 2ist, 1900. 

Lord Roberts wrote : — " I hare only heard to-day that there 
are women and children in your laager. If this is the case^ I 
will be happy to accord them a safe conduct through my lines to 
any place they may select I must express my regret to you that 
these women and children were exposed to our fire during the 
late attacks. We did not know of their presence with your 
troops. I have also heard that you are in want of surgeons and 
medicines. If you require them it will afford me great pleasure 
to send you either the one or the other." 

Cronje replied : — " Safe-conduct declined. I accept the offer 
of surgeons and medicines, on the condition that when the sur- 
geons have once entered this laager, they must not leave it until 
I have removed it to another place." 

To this Lord Roberts answered: — "I have the honour to 
acknowledge the receipt of your letter of this morning, which is 
the reply to my offer to send you surgeons and medicines. In 
view of the conditions which you impose, and of the circumstance 
that I cannot dispense with my surgeons for so indefinite a period, 
I am compelled reluctantly to withdraw my offer.** 

Negotiations on February 22nd, 1900. 

In a letter of the 22nd Cronje referred again to this matter : — 
" On second thoughts, I beg to make the foUowing proposal You 
will supply me widi a complete hospital equipment, surgeons, and 
medicines, to whom free entry shall be accorded. I will then 
allow the hospital to be erected 1,000 yards to the west of my 
laager."* 

Lord Roberts rejected this proposal in the following terms : — 
** I regret that I do not possess sufficient hospital equipment for 
my own men. If my original offer be not accepted, I am not in 
a position to make another." 

Negotiations on February 23rd, 1900. 

Lord Roberts sent a verbal message on the 23rd to ask how 
many British prisoners and wounded Cronje had in his laager, to 
which the latter replied : — " Twelve prisoners and four wounded. 
I forward a list." 

Lord Roberts at once wrote : — " Accept my best thanks for 
your letter. If you should send out our wounded and four of your 
own wounded, they shall be sent to the German Red Cross Hos- 
pital at Jacobsdal, and set at liberty on their recovery." 

This was then carried out. 

NoTK. — This correspondence has been translated from the German. 

[Trans.] 

* This was an extremely crafty artifice, for the Boers would then hav« 
been safe from any attack on just their most dangerously exposed side. 



26$ 



APPENDIX VIII. 



TRANSPORT AND SUPPLY. 

Before the war broke out it had been intended to concentrate 
all the British forces in the central portion of Cape Colony, on 
either side of the railway leading from Port Elizabeth to Bloem- 
fontein and Pretoria. The advance on the capital of the Orange 
Free State was then to have begun at the end of December, 
according to Buller*s original intention, after the transport service 
should have been organised in Cape Colony during the months 
of October and November. 

All these arrangements, however, had been upset by the unex- 
pected events which had taken place in Natal, and which had 
diverted the British operations prematurely into another and 
unlooked-for direction. It had been impossible to equip properly 
with transport, in so short a time, the forces operating in Natal 
under BuUer, and in Cape Colony under Gatacre and Methuen. 
The transport arrangements were indeed so incomplete that the 
troops could not, for the time being, operate for more than two 
or three days away from the railway lines. The consequence was 
that the generals were obliged to cling anxiously to the railway, 
" their sole foster-mother " in every enterprise upon which they 
embarked. By the end of December, however, it had been 
practicable to so far give efifect to the original plan as to provide 
the elements of a really large train in Cape Colony, by purchasing 
many thousands of oxen, mules, and carts. When Lord Roberts 
arrived in South Africa he found these in an unorganised mass, 
and to him is due the merit of having elaborated a system of 
transport suitable to the peculiar conditions of the theatre of war. 

When the war began the transport system of the British army 
was based upon the " regimental transport,'* which supplied the 
troops in the first instance. This was again divided into the 
*' first line transport," consisting of ammunition, medical, en- 
trenching tool and water carts, and into the ** second line 
transport," carrying supplies for several days, as well as the bag- 
gage, tents, and other articles. There were also brigade, divi- 
sional, and army corps supply colunms, each of which carried 
supplies for one day. The sjrstem was that each lower unit 
replenished its wants daily from the next higher one, while there 



266 APPENDIX VIH. 

was also a supply park with supplies for three days for an entire 
army corps. 

The regimental transport was subordinate to its own unit, and 
was manned by it. This had the great advantage that the troops 
were zealous in looking after their own transport, being person- 
ally interested in its efficiency. The Army Service Corps 
administered and looked after the supply columns and the supply 
park. 

In the opinion of Lord Roberts this organisation had several 
disadvantages. At the commencement of the war it had been 
laid down that the regimental transport was to be very mobile, 
and consist of lifi;ht carts drawn by mules, whereas the supply 
columns and parks were to be transported by oxen. The latter 
could only march from 12 to 15 miles daily, while the former 
could cover from 18 to 33 miles. While the mules would eat 
at any hour of the day or night, the oxen only fed by day, so 
that they could not be worked at pleasure by day or night. 
There had not been, at first, enough mules available, so that 
teams of oxen had to take their places, with the result that mobi- 
lity was impaired, owing to the use of two kinds of teams in one 
unit, and their different feeding hours. There was also another 
great disadvantage, due to the fact that, with the existing organi- 
sation, it was impossible to make the fiillest use of the material 
available. During the operations it had been necessary to employ 
numerous units to protect the Lines of Communication, and they 
had retained their regimental transport, without, as a rule, requir- 
ing it, while the troops engaged in operations against the enemy 
were frequently in urgent need of it, their mobility being greatly 
impaired for want of it. In order to remedy this evil it was 
resolved to reorganise the transport completely. 

The troops had the whole of their train taken away, with the 
exception of the ammunition, water, and medical carts ; it was 
then placed directly under the Army Service Corps and the 
Commander-in-Chief. It thus became possible to utilise for the 
field army the regimental transport, which had not hitherto been 
employed, and which consisted, for the most part, of the valuable 
and mobile mule transport. It is true that the train of the field 
array was thereby considerably increased, but, on the other hand, 
it was rendered far more mobile, so that the force became more 
independent of the railway. The available personnel of the Army 
Service Corps was far too weak to allow of the retention of the 
regulation internal organisation of the train under the new system. 
It was, therefore, resolved to attach officers of the combatant 
troops to tlie transport, and to organise this so as to reduce the 
personnel to a minimum. All the transport was divided into 
companies, to each of which only two officers were allotted, and 
it thus became possible to provide all the companies with Army 



TRANSPORT AND SUPPLY. 267 

Service Corps penannd,* They were divided into light and 
heavy companies respectively; the former had each 49 carts 
with teams of six or eight mules, while the latter had 100 carts 
with teams of 12 or 14 oxen, natives being employed as drivers. 
The length of a light transport company in order of march was 
about 1,300 yards, but that of a heavy one was nearly 3 miles. 
The latter was, therefore, very difficult to manage, and, if the 
enemy had been at all enterprising, would have required a very 
strong escort. The endurance of thQ mulesf was very great 
throughout, in spite of scarcity of grass, and comparatively few 
were lost, notwithstanding the great strain to which they had to 
be subjected. Supply columns were not intended to be perma- 
nently attached to particular bodies of troops, but merely accord- 
ing to the circumstances of the moment. As regards the force 
intended for the relief of Kimberley, two light transport compa- 
nies were allotted to each division of infantry, that is to say, one 
for each brigade. They carried the divisional baggage and a two- 
days' supply of rations and forage, following immediately in rear 
of their units. 

Simultaneously with the reorganisation of the transport, arrange- 
ments were made to procure a sufficient quantity of supplies. 
Besides those despatched from England^ others had been pur- 
chased in Cape Colony, and the stocks were very much laxger 
than had been at first anticipated. These were placed in numerous 
magazines along the railway lines, so that by the middle of 
January there was a reserve supply for two months for the entire 
army, which at the end of January required rations for 150,000 
men and 80,000 horses and mules. For the relief of Kimberley, 
under Lord Roberts, large quantities of supplies had been placed 
along the De Aar — Kimberley railroad, while several millions of 
rations and forage had been collected at Modder River Station, 
Orange River Station, and De Aar. 

Arrangements had not been concluded with contractors for the 
delivery of supplies before the war broke out ; when, therefore, it 
did commence, unheard of prices had to be paid. Lord 
Kitchener, it is true, lays the blame for this in part on the 
ignorance of the Army Service Corps officers concerning the 

* When the war commenced the personnel of the Army Service Corps 
was quite insufficient. When the first reinforcements were despatched from 
England, 99 officers and x,ooo men of the A.S.C. also arrived at Cape Town, 
and these, in the opinion of Colonel Richardson, Director of the A.S.C^ 
saved the situation, " without them we should have had a catastrophe." 
The personnel was increased later to 233 officers and 4,672 men, who were 
always employed continually. 

t The number of mules imported from America, Italy, and India, np to 
May I, 1900, was 17,143. 

% Two steamers left England weekly, carrying only equipment and 
supplies. 



368 APPENDIX VIIL 

state of the international money market, and on their inability to 
deal with financial questions of magnitude. Owing to his repre- 
sentations " financial officers " were appointed to the Stafife of all 
the larger commands during a later stage of the war. They had 
special knowledge of finance, and were partly civilians, partly 
professional soldiers. They were specially charged with the 
scrutiny of sums due and claims for compensation, the financial 
supervision of the railways and telegraphs, the management of 
financial and great business questions, and similar matters. Their 
appointment resulted later in large savings being effected, all 
contracts being subject to their revision, so that in some instances 
the prices were reduced by one-third. Lord Kitchener has stated 
that there was nobody at Headquarters who was an authority on 
finance, and who had sufficient time, knowledge, and ability to 
deal with financial questions on a large scale. If there had been 
financial advisers at the commencement instead of towards the 
end of the war, immense economies could have been efifected, and 
great and needless expense avoided. The Commander-in-Chief 
could thus have been relieved from a mass of work with which he 
ought not to have had to deal. Lord Kitchener's experiences in 
South Africa convinced him that a finance officer should accom- 
pany every army corps in a future war, and that a financial 
adviser of high rank should be attached to the Staff of the 
Commander-in-Chief in the field. His Lordship has added that 
this is especially necessary at the commencement of the opera- 
tions, because the generals have no time to occupy themselves 
with financial affairs, while the small cost of finance officers in 
the South African campaign could have saved the State many 
millions of pounds. 



269 



APPENDIX IX. 



TABLE SHOWING THE STRENGTH ON MOBILISATION OF 
THE UNDERMENTIONED UNITS, TOGETHER WITH THE 
NUMBER OF MEN SERVING WITH THE COLOURS AND 
THOSE BELONGING TO THE RESERVE. 



Remarks. 




(A.)--Cavalry Division. 



A.— CAVALRY. 
I St Brigade — 

2nd Dragoons 

6th Dragoon Guards 
2nd Brigade — 

Household Cavalry 

loth Hussars 

I2th Lancers 

3rd Brigade — 

9th Lancers ... 

i6th Lancers 



T 
U 

8 

P 
R 
O 



B.— 7 BATTERIES R.H. 



C— MOUNTED INFANTRY. 



8 Companies ... 





37a 


186 


558 




439 


129 


558 




574 


— 


574 




4x8 


147 


56s 




426 


126 


5Sa 




497 


— 


497 




^— 


~— 


— 


A. 










129 


46 


175 




HS 


33 


178 




145 


35 


180 




131 


47 


178 




127 


52 


179 




134 


46 


180 


r\^T 


140 


40 


180 


RY. 


1 163 


_ 


1 163 



(B.)— First DivUion. 



Guards' Brigade^ 

3rd Grenadiers 

1st Coldstreams ... 

2nd Coldstreams ... 

ist Scots Guards 

9th Brigade— 

xst Northumberland Fusiliers 

ist Loyal North Lancashire 

2nd Northamptonshire ... 

2nd Yorkshire Light Infantry... 

Artillery^ 
20th Battery R.F.A. 
38th 



-1 



i 



From India. 
Not known. 



If 



n 



68s 


399 


1084 


737 


346 


1083 


469 


620 


1089 


640 


448 


1088 


815 


—~ 


815 


971 


— 


971 


441 


541 


982 


492 


— 


492 


450 


— ~ 


450 


99 


71 


170 


94 


79 


173 



At De Aar. 



At De Aar. 
From Mauri- 
tius. 



2^0 



APPENDIX IX. 




Remarks. 



(C.)— 5ixth Division. 

13th Brioads — 

and East Kent 

2nd Gloucestershire 

ist West Riding 

I St Oxfordshire Light Infantry ... 
1 8th Brigade — 

1st Yorkshire ... ..t ••• 

191 dssex ••• ••. .ft ••• 

ist Welsh 

Artillery — 

i3(AtX ••• •■• ••• ••• 

76th Battery R.F.A 

o2nd If II ••• ... 

Ammunition Column 

Enginebrs 



507 


446 


953 


44a 


484 


926 


676 


303 


979 


438 


351 


789 


545 


427 


972 


443 


469 


912 


500 


320 


820 


6 


7 


13 


81 


89 


170 


62 


108 


170 


64 


106 


170 


7 


116 


123 


105 


105 


210 



Division. 



(D.)— 5event!i 

14th Brigade^ 

xst King's Own Scottish Borderers 

2nd Norfolk ... 

2nd Lincolnshire 

2nd Hampshire ... ... ... 

15th Brigade — 

1st East Lancashire 

2nd Cheshire ... ... ... 

2nd South Wales Borderers 

2nd North Staffordshire 

Artillery— 

Staff and i8th Battery R.F.A. ... 

62nd Battery R.F.A. 

75*" »» »» ••• ••• 

2 Ammunition Columns ... 

kngineers *•• ... ... ... 



(E.)-Ninth Division. 

3rd Brigade — 

2nd Black Watch 

2nd Seaforths ... ... ... ... 

ist Argyll and Sutherland 

19th Brigade — 

2nd Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry .. 

2nd Shropshire Light Infantry ... 

ist Gordon Highlanders 

1st Royal Canadians • 

Artillery — 

dtaxi ••• ... ••. .«• 

83rd Battery R.F.A 

o4tn II II ••• ••• 

o^tn II II •*. ... 

Ammunition Column 



• • • 


488 


611 


1099 


• •• 


438 


531 


Q6q 


• •• 


543 


430 


973 


t ■ • 


399 


438 


837 


• •• 


370 


577 


947 


• •• 


517 


508 


1025 


• • « 


455 


608 


1063 




450 


547 


997 




^■~ 


— 


X91 




— 


•^ 


173 




— 


— 


173 




— 


— 


210 




121 


90 


211 



588 


425 


1013 


466 


461 


927 


533 


549 


1082 


385 


555 


940 


532 


373 


904 


363 


491 


854 


766 


2Ss 


105 1 


12 


.... 


12 


I2X 


48 


169 


71 


99 


170 


107 


63 


170 


7 


119 


126 



Detailed 
composi- 
tion not 
known. 



y 




271 



INDEX 



Abon*s Dam, cavalry at, 148; and 
Cronje's retreat, 156, 172. 

Albrecht, Major, at Magersfontein, 
94, 107 ; on lyddite, 238. 

Aldworih, Lieut.-Colonel, killed, 
192. 

Aliwal North, rail to, 10; garri- 
soned, 78. 

American Military Attach^, and 
Lord Kitchener, 226. 

Ammunition, Boer supplies of, 20 ; 
rounds per rifle (British), 30; 
British artillery, 30 ; expenditure 
not extraordinary at Magersfon- 
tein, 1x8, 119; Boer artillery ex- 
plodes at Paardeberg, 201 ; and 
customs of war, 212. 

Armaments, Boer, 18-21 ; British, 

Armistice, and Cronje, 198. 

Army Service Corps, energy of, 152. 

Artillery, Boer, 20, 21 ; Boer tactics, 
21 ; British training and tactics, 
29 ; in Sudan, 29 ; British guns, 
30, 31 ; at siege of Ladysmith,4i ; 
Boer at CoTenso, 58; BuUer's 
orders at Colenso, 60 ; at Colenso, 
60-69 ; Boers afraid of, 82 ; bom- 
bard Magersfontein, 93 ; at Mag- 
ersfontein, 102, 1x8; aids High- 
landers, 103 ; Boer at Magersfon- 
tein, 104, 109; British change 
position, 104; ammunition ex- 
penditure not extraordinary, xi8, 
119; exhausting march, 142; re- 
lief of Kimberley, 145, 147; at 
Dronfield, 159; surprise Cronje, 
162-164 ; at Paardeberg, 182, 184, 
189, 190, 195, 199, 200, 201, 202, 
204, 227: tactics, 2x9; and re- 
connaissance, 114, 2x9; error at 
Paardeberg, 219, 220; effect of 
lyddite, 227, 228. 



Babington, General, at Magersfon- 
tein, 103 ; at Koodoesberg, 136. 



Baggage train, size of British, 79. 

Balloon detachment, at Mager^on* 
tein, 107 ; at Paardeberg, 204. 

Barton, General, opposed by supe- 
rior Boer forces in Natal, 45; 
order^ to Chieveley, 51 ; at 
Colenso, 59, 66, 69. 

Belmont, 80; action at, 81. 

Benson, Major R. A., at Magersfon- 
tein, 97, 100. 

Bethulie, rail to, 10, 131. 

Bloemfontein, rail to, 10 ; Lord 
Roberts' objective, 130, 134. 

Boers, The, move North in X835, x ; 
views of in 1899, 3 ; mode of life, 
II; defeat Zulus, 12; proclaim 
independence, 1880, 14 ; prepare 
for war, 18 ; forces of, 19 ; arma- 
ment, 19-21 ; superiority [of in 
musketry, 30; and Afrikanders, 
33; distribution and strength, 
Oct, 1809, 33 ; invade NaUl, 33 ; 
at Elandslaagte, 37 ; invest Lady- 
smith, 39, 41 ; do not pursue oa 
Oct. 30, 1899, 41 ; advance to- 
wards Durban, 41 ; lose time, 42 ; 
retreat across Tugela, 42 ; make 
no sign, 49, 52 ; force at Colenso, 
57 ; occupy Hlangwane Hill, 58 ; 
at Colenso, 61, 62, 65, 67, 68, 69; 
cross Tugela, 68 ; their views on 
Colenso, 73 ; deceive Buller, 75 ; 
defensive tactics at Colenso, 77 ; 
result of their Natal successes, 78 ; 
regardless of baggage, 80 ; change 
their tactics, 82 ; at Modder river, 
83; retreat, 84; shaken by 
Methuen, 85 ; P. Cronje's force, 87 ; 
occupy Ma^mfontein, 88 ; artifices 
of, 89, 264; estimated strength 
at Magersfontein, 90; and Meth- 
uen's reconnaissance, 92, 93; at 
Magersfontein nearly retreat, 106 ; 
musketry at Msger^ontein, 107 : 
excellent on defensive, 121 ; bad 
leadership, ia8 ; unaware of 
Roberts' concentration, 136; esti* 



272 



INDEX. 



mated strength, Feb. 8, 1900, 
137; mobilitj diminished, 137; 
surprised by cavalry, 142; and 
relief of Kimberlej, 145, 147; 
terror of Boers, 147; not pur- 
sued, 148 ; capture large supplies, 
150, 151 ; retreat from Magers- 
fontein, 154; destroy wells, 159; 
Cronje's night march, i6x ; sur- 
prised by French, 162-164; un- 
controllable disorder, 162 ; at- 
tack French, 164; could have 
escaped, 165; escape hopeless, 
168; bad military system, 174; 
and patrols, 177; Paardeb«rg 
position, 161, 179; reinforced at 
Paardeberg, 187, 194; escape still 
possible, 226; artillery ammu- 
nition exploded, 20X; sufferings 
of, 204 ; wish to break through, 
207 ; Council of War, 207 ; 
surrender, 210; number of 
prisoners, 210; well treated by 
British, 2x0, 21 X ; moral effect of 
surrender, 2x3 ; want of artillery, 
219, 227; fire tactics, 220; no 
tactical training, 22 x ; in attack, 
223; at Nitral's Nek, 224; 
musketry fire, 225. 

Bosjespan, Boer laager captured, 
158. 

Botha, General Louis, opposed to 
Boer retreat across Tugela, 42; 
assumes command at Colenso, 47 ; 
plans for the battle, 57-59; his 
chief anxiety, 57. 

Botha, General Philip, and 
Kitchener's kopje, 205. 

Brabant, Colonel, 129, 214. 

British forces, in Africa, 1899, x, 2; 
faulty training of, 23-25, 27-29, 
X2I ; reinforced from India, 32; 
strength of, 32 ; surprised at 
Dundee, 33 ; concentrate at Lady- 
smith, 39; reinforced in Natal, 
42 ; order of battle broken up, 44 ; 
reinforcements for, 45 ; in Natal, 
Dec. 5, 48; do not reconnoitre, 
49, 52 ; orders for Colenso, 53-56 ; 
reasons for failure at Colenso, 7X- 
73 ; their baggage, 79 ; bound to 
railway, 80; mobility of, 80; 9th 
and naval brigades formed, 80; 
paucity of mounted troops, 80, 128 ; 
under Methuen reinforced, 90; 
bad arrangements for Magersfon- 
tein, 96 ; gallantry at Magersfon- 
tein, 103; needless hardships of, 



115; distribntioD, Jan., 1900, 
127; Lord Roberts oonoentrates, 
I35i 136; 9th division formed, 
135; ordered to advance, i^; 
effect on of relief of Ktmberlc^ 
149 ; on half rations, 153 ; porsnit 
of Cronje, 156-167 ; officers' prac- 
tical sense, 169; endurance of, 
171, 175; exhaustion of at Paar- 
deberg, 192 ; kindness to Cronje's 
force, 210, 211 ; chivalrous be- 
haviour, 211; reprisals justified, 
211 ; general aavanoe of, 214; 
constant change of tactics, 219; 
their dash, 222; bad effect of 
Paardeberg on, 225, 226. 
British War office, and Boers, 11 ; 
in 1881, 15 ; Intelligence Division, 
18 ; neglects experience, 23 ; its 
good points, 23; difficulties of, 

24. 

Broadwood, General, pursues Cronje 
160; and de Wet, 200. 

Buller, General Sir Redvers, reaches 
Cape Town, 43; goes to Natal, 
45 ; asks for reinforcements, 45 ; 
goes to Clery at Chieveley, 8 ; effect 
of this, 48 ; expects little opposi- 
tion, 49 ; plans for Colenso, 51 ; 
changes his mind, 51 ; decides on 
frontal attack, 53 ; orders to artil- 
lery at Colenso, 60 ; his bravery, 
63 ; sees himself deceived, Sb ; 
orders retreat, 67; message to 
White, 70 ; his career and convic- 
tions, 71, 72; does not grasp 
situation, 72, 73; relieves Lady- 
smith, 214. 

Bullock, Colonel, at Colenso, 68, 

Buluwayo, rail to, 10. 

Burghersdorp junction, xo. 

Burghership and British, i. 



Campaign, Plans of, Boer, 33 ; Sir 

G. White's, 32, 39; British, 43; 

change in British, 78; Lord 

Roberts and Kimberley, X30, 137 ; 

Bloemfontein objective, 130, 134; 

criticism difficult, X7X. 
Cape Colony, taken by Dutch, and 

British, i ; and Boers, 33, 44 ; 

private enterprise, 129. 
Cape Town, 9, 44. 
Carbines, compared with Mauser, 

30. 
Cavalry, faulty training, 24, 28 ; at 

TaUna. 34; at Elandslaagte, 37 ; 



INDEX. 



273 



on Oct. 30, 1899, 40 ; at Colenso, 
59,64; want of, 80, 128; attempt 
to cross M odder River, 92; at 
Magersfontein, 103, 104, 106, 107, 
118; want of wire-cutters, 1 13 ; di- 
vision formed, 128, 135 t' ^o relieve 
Kimberley promptly, 138 ; advance 
of, 139; cross Kiet River, 140 ; 
loses touch with Boers, 140 ; for- 
mation on march, 139; surprised 
by Boers, 141 ; surprise Boers, 
142 ; cross Modder, 142 ; capture 
Boer supplies, 142; tactics, 140, 
142 ; great charge, 145-147 ; in 
future wars, 147; fails to report 
Cronje's retreat, 156; achieve no- 
thing at Dronfield, 159; wrongly 
employed, 160, 172; pursue 
Cronje, 160; surprise him, 162- 
164 ; charge of loth Hussars, i(S4 ; 
remarkable achievement of, 165; 
tactics on Feb. 16 and 17, 1900, 
166; valuable lessons, 166; enor- 
mous loss of horses, 176; disci- 
pline, 176; scouting in future 
wars, 177 ; reconnaissance, 53» 75t 
83, 90, 112, 113, 140, 143. 14^. 
176, 177 ; at Paardeberg, 196, 200, 
202 ; recapture Kitchener's kopje, 
203. 

Civil administration of Boers, 13. 

Clements, General, 135, 2x4. 

Clery, Cren. Sir F., commands in 
Natal, 45 ; his force, 48 ; orders 
for Colenso, 53-56. 

Climate, 6, 7, 133 ; affects efficiency, 
7 ; temperature, 6, 134; dust, 134; 
rain, 134; at Paardeberg, 204. 

Colenso, I X ; British reconnoitre, 
46 ; battle of, 59-70 ; British re- 
treat, 67, 68; but victory still 
possible, 73. 

Colesberg, rail to, xo. 

CoUey, General Sir G., 15-17. 

Colonial troops raised, 2, 29; in- 
creased, X29. 

Colonial wars, difficulties of, 23; 
prejudicial effects of, 24, 25, 1x4; 
artilleiy in Sudan, 29, 

Col vile. General Sir H., differs from 
Methuen, 109 ; lack of energy at 
Magersfontein, x 19 ; fear of re- 
sponsibility, 151 ; on marches, 
175; on Highlanders at Paarde- 
berg, 185, 186 ; on infantry attack, 
185, 186; and Kitchener, 191, 
192 ; attacks Boers at Paardeberg, 
208, 2og. 



Command and rank, phenomena of, 
2x7, 229, 230. 

Commandants, Boer, 13. 

Communication, lines of, 79, 80, 84r 
131 ; require constant care, 153 ; 
drastic changes, 169 ; and Boers, 
227. 

Cronje, General P., after Modder 
river, 86 ; his force, 87 ; objects to 
Magersfontein position, 87 ; orders 
for Magersfontein, 93; nearly 
captured, 102 ; prevents Boer re- 
treat, X06 ; aware of British move- 
ments, 154 ; retreats from Magers- 
fontein, 155 ; night march, 161 ; 
thinks he has escaped, 161 ; posi- 
tion on Modder, 161, X79; re- 
sumes retreat, 162; surprised by 
French, 162-164; mistaken, 163; 
could have escaped, X65 ; his cap- 
ture chiefly due to French, 165 ; 
sees escape hopeless, 168; un- 
fitted for high command, 174; 
his hopes, 197; escape still 
possible, X99, 226; difficulties, 
204, 207 ; and Boer leaders, 207 ; 
Council of War, 207 ; surrenders, 
210 ; results of surrender, 213, 214. 

Cultivation, 133. 

Customs of war, observance of, 2ix, 
212. 

De Aar junction, 9, 10 ; garrisoned, 
78. 

Despatch riders, 143. 

Discipline, Boer, 14 ; British, 176. 

Distances in Africa and Europe, 10 ; 
and plan of campaign, 132. 

Distribution and strength, British, 
1,2; in Natal, 32 ; of Boers, Oct., 
1899, 33 ; of British, Nov., 1899, 
44; of 1st Army Corps, Nov., 
x^i 45; o^ British and Boers, 
end of Nov., 1899, 47 ; British in 
Natal, Dec. 5, 48; Boers at 
Colenso, 58; Ninth and Naval 
brigades formed, 80 ; Boers under 
P. Cronje, 87 ; British at Magers- 
fontein, 91 ; Boers at Magersfon- 
tein, 94; of British, Jan., 1900, 
127, 135 ; Ninth division formed, 
135; cavalry division formed, 128, 
135; British, Feb., X900, 138; of 
Boers, estimated, Feb. 8, 1900, 

137- 
Doornkop Spruit, 58. 

Drakensberg mountains. Natal fron- 
tier, II. , 

T 



'74 



INDEX. 



Drieput, Cronje's retreat towards, 

I55t 15^; action at, 157. 
Dronfield, cavalry at, 159. 
Dundee, 32 ; British surprised at, 33. 
Dundonald, Lord, at Cofenso, 59, 65. 
Durban, railway, 10; carrying 

capacity, 13X. 
Dutch settlers, I. 



East London, rail from, 10, 131. 
Eighteenth brigade at Paardeberg, 

194-196. 

Elandslaagte, 34 ; action at, 34-39. 

Engineers, equipment of, 31 ; and 
transport, 152 ; balloon at Paarde- 
berg, 204. 

Equipment, British, 31 ; spade with- 
drawn from infantry, 31 ; cavalry 
want wire-cutters, 113; and tran- 
sport, 152. 

Erasmus, General, succeeds Joubert, 

47. 



Fauresmith, 137. 

Ferreira, Commandant, advice to 
Cronje, 168. 

Fetherstonhaugh, Gen., 80. 

Field Cornets, 13. 

Field fortification, British want of 
tools, 31 ; Boer at Magersfontein, 
88-89; Boer at Paardeberg, 180, 
201, 212 ; British, 203, 225. 

Fire-arms, modern, 30, 1 13, 121, 135 ; 
V, cavalry, 147 ; favour defence, 
166, 218 ; and scouting, 177 ; Boer 
use of, 220; in attack, 220; in 
defence, 225. 

Forts in Transvaal, x8. 

Fourteenth Brigade, and supply 
column, I50,;i5i ; surprised, 201. 

Franco-German War, surprises of, 
76, 77 ; Magersfontein and St. 
Privat compared, 116; German 
delusions, 217 ; personal quarrels, 
229. 

French, General, at Elandslaagte, 34 
-39 ; escapes from Lady smith, 45 ; 
at Rensburg, 127 ; to command 
cavalry division, 135 ; reconnoitres 
Riet river, 139 ; crosses Rict river, 
140; his tactics, 140, 142; relieves 
Kimberley, 145-148 ; untiring 
energy, 149 ; accomplishes the 
seemingly impossible, 163 ; dis- 
covers Cronje, 163 ; Cronje's cap- 
ture chiefly due to, 165 ; early 



hours, 176; recaptures Kitchener's 
Kopje, 202. 

Frere, British reach, 46. 

Fronemann, Commandant, joins de 
Wet, 199. 

Frontal attacks, at Laing's Nek, 15 ; 
Modder river, 83; difficulty of, 
85 ; Magersfontein, 91 ; unsup- 
ported, 1x7 ; Paardeberg, xSs, 183, 
190. 

Frontiers, Orange Free State and 
Griqualand west, 88 ; wire fencing, 
1x2. 



Galopaud, Lieutenant, 68. 

Ganger's hut, 92. 

Garrisons, British, too weak, i, 2. 

Gatacre, General Sir W., at Queens- 
town, 44 ; defeated at Stormberg, 
f2 ; at Sterkstroom, 127 ; occupies 
Itormberg, 214. 

German Military Attach^, remarks 
on Colenso, 77 ; cavalry discipline, 
176; British tactics, 206. 

German military regulations, 25, 177, 
221. 

German officers, on British scouting, 
75i 141 1 praise British humanity, 
211; on customs of war, 212; on 
British dash, 222; and Nitral's 
Nek, 224; musketry fire, 224; 
lyddite, 228. 

Glencoe, 11, 32. 

Gomba stream, 65. 

Gordon, General (of Khartum), ad- 
vice neelected, 42. 

Gordon Highlanders, at Magersfon- 
tein, 107-109 ; their bad luck, 1x7. 

Government, weak Boer, X3, 14. 

Graspan, fight at, 82. 

Grubler's Kloof, 50, 65. 

Guards' Brigade, The, sent to Orange 
River, 79; surprised at Modder 
River, 83; at Magersfontein, 106, 
117. 

Gun Hill (Colenso), 00. 

Gun Hill [Paardeberg], 162, 182. 



Hall, Colonel, R.A., at Magersfon- 
tein, X04. 

Hamilton, Colonel Ian, at Elands- 
laagte, 36, 37. 

Hannay, Colonel, 129, X37 ; omits 
to reconnoitre, 149; loses touch 
with Cronje, 161 ; charges Boers 
and is killed, 193, 194. 



INDEX. 



275 



Harrismith, xi, 13a. 

Hart, General, at Colenso, 59, 64, 
67,69. 

Headquarter Hill, 88. 

Heliographs, Boer, 22, 30O; and 
Kimberley, 148. 

Highland Brigade, moves to Head- 
quarter Hill, 92; orders for, at 
Magersfontein, 95 ; advances, 97 ; 
delayed, xoo; in confusion, loi ; 
gallantry of, io2; losses, 103; 
endurance, 103; effect of Boer 
fire, 107 ; retires, 108, X09 ; losses, 
X08 ; and Prussian Guards, 1 16 ; 
foredoomed to failure, 116; at 
Paardeberg, 184, 185. 

Hildyard, General, surrounded in 
Natal, 45 ; at Colenso, 59, 63, 64, 
67-69 ; sound tactics, 77. 

Hlangwane Hill, 50 ; Importance of, 
57. 58; on Dec. 15, 1899, 65; 
key of the position, 66^ 74. 

Holcroft, Capt., 19. 

Hopetown, bridge at, 9 ; garrisoned, 
78. 

Horses, loss of, 142, 159, x6o, 176; 
on reduced rations, 153, 206 ; ex- 
haustion of, 164, 200. 

Horse-sickness, 8. 

Hospital ships, 70. 



India, troops from, 2 ; military 
training in, 24, 29, 2x8. 

Infantry, training of British, 23 
volley firing, 24; in attack, 26 
in defence, 27; traditions of, 28, 
rifle, 30; give up entrenching 
equipment, 3X ; strength of batta- 
lions, 32 ; at Ladysmith on Oct. 
30, 1899,40; Highlanders' forma- 
tion at Magersfontein, 97'-99, xoo; 
Highlanders retire, 108, 109 ; 
Magersfontein and St. Privat com- 
pared, 116; formations at Magers- 
fontein, 117; Colvile on attack, 
185, 186; use of the spade, 203; 
tactics at Paardeberg, 216; tactics 
constantly changed, 219 ; attack 
formations, 22X-223; musketry 
fire, 225 ; and machine guns, 228. 

Intelligence Division (War Office), 
compiles "Military Notes," 18; 
and Boer artillery, 2X ; recom- 
mends cavalry, 22. 

Isandlhwana, effect of, X4. 

Jacobsdal, Boer dep6t, 86; occu- 
pied by British, 149. 



ameson raid, 18. 
^ ohannesburg, rail to, 10. 
oubert. General, 33 ; refuses to 
pursue, Oct. 30, 1899, 41 ; super- 
stitious, 42 ; resigns command-in- 
chief and is succeeded by Erasmus 
and Schalk Burgher, 47. 



Kaffirs, X3, 14; employed at Colenso, 
57 ; before Magersfontein, 87 ; and 
military intelligence, 137. 

Karroo, The, 9. 

Kelly-Kenny, Greneral, issues instruc- 
tions, 130; to Naauwpoort, 135; 
arrives Ramdam, 141 ; Riet river, 
143 ; Modder, 144 ; overtakes 
Cronje, 167; secrecy of Lord 
Roberts, 138, 178 ; supersession of, 
229. 

de Kiel Drift, 7th Division reaches, 
X40. 

Kimberley, origin of, 10; siege in- 
tended, 33 ; invested, 78 ; Lord 
Roberts' plan for relief, X38; relief 
of, 145-148 ; siege of exaggerated, 
148; effect of relief on British, 
149; relief not urgent, 172; main 
supply dep6t, 204. 

Kitchener's Horse, raised, X29; oc- 
cupy Kitchener's Kopje, 184 
captured by de Wet, 187. 

Kitchener's Kopje, 162, 182; occu- 
pied by Kitchener's Horse, 184; 
captured by de Wet, 187; and 
Broadwood, 200 ; 2,000 Boers at, 
202 ; de Wet evacuates, 203 ; 
Boers fail to recapture, 205, 206 ; 
and Cronje, 200, 226. 

Kitchener, Lord, Chief of Staff, 125 ; 
his career, 126; accompanies 6th 
division, 144 ; perceives Cronje's 
retreat, 156 ; grasps the situation, 
156; orders pursuit, 156; and 
Kelly- Kenny, 156, 229; reports 
Boer retreat, 157 ; informs French, 
X58; assumes command of M.I., 
x68; overtakes Cronje, 168; his 
energy, 168 ; decides on imme- 
diate attack, 180; decision sound, 
but execution faulty, 181, 215- 
218 ; orders 6th division to attadc, 
x82; orders assault, 190 ; hb 
error, 190; his unfortunate rela- 
tions with generals, X91 ; orders 
M.I. to assault, 193 ; assault fails, 
194 ; armistice, 198 ; leaves Paar- 
deberg, 203; want of practice, 



27<S /WJ 

217 ; > " born soldier," 318 ; effect 
of Paardeberg on, aaC ; ■upenei- 
rioD oF Kelly-Kenny, 339. 

Kock, General, occuplei EUnds- 
Utgte, 34. 

Komali Poort, 33. 

Kaodoe^>erf>, action at, 136. 

Koodoes Rand Drift, Boera at, 161. 



invested, 39; 



I^dysmith, 10, 
relieved, 314. 
Laing'i Nek, tnnnel, ii ; action at, 

Langeberg farm, 87, 69. 

Lines of communicatian, 79, 80, 84, 

13: ; require constant care, 153; 

drastic chang;e3, i6g; and de Wet, 

3117. 
Long, Col. R. A., at Colenso, 60-63, 

Losses in action, at Laing's Nek, 16 ; 
Ht Majyba, 17 ; esaggerated, aj ; 
«t Elandslaagte, 38; at Nichol- 
son's Nek, 40; at Colenso, 6g; 
German at Vionvilie, 771 at Bel- 
"" Modder river, 84; 



141; I^oodoeabere, 136; Rode- 
pan, 139; relief of Kimbcrley, 146; 

tnrsuit of Cronje, 158 ; Cornwall 
ight Infantry, 193 j Paardeberg, 
197, aio. 
Lyddite, trifling effect of, 93, 337, 

336 ; stench, 303. 
Lyttelton, General Hon. N., at 
Colenso, 39, 67, 69. 

MacDonild, General, at Koodoes- 
ber^, 136 1 at Paardeberg;, 186. 

Uachineguns, Boer, 30, 31 1 British, 
30; effect on nerves, 33B. 

Mafeking,rail to, 10; siege intended, 
33 ; invested. 78. 

Magersfontein, probable effect of on 
BuIUr, 53; poaition at, S7-89; 
Methuen's reconnaissance in forte, 
9^> 93i Cronje issaes orders for, 
93i941 Methuen's orders for, 95, 
96; insufficient reserre, 96 ; battle 
of, 97-no; isolated attacks, 103; 
artillery at, 104, 107, 109; Boers 
nearly retreat, 106; Highlanders 
retire, loS ; needless hardships of 
British, tiji thnr gallantry, 116; 
conclusions to be drawn from the 
battle, 131. 



Majuba, 16, 17. 

Manseuvres. nrant of, 35, 37, aS, 99 ; 
in India, 39, 318; Lord Kitchener 

Maps, scarcity of, 99, 49, 79, 81. 

Marches, training in night, aS; ex- 
hanating, 140, 143, 143 ; Croajc'a 
night march, 161 ; Naval Brigade 
and 9th Division, 167, 16S; bj 
night, 175, 198. 

Medical service, at Colenso, 69, 70; 
at Magerafontein, splendid, lao. 

Meiton siding, 87, 88, 89. 

Methuen, Lord, on recoanaissllice, 
7S i torelieve Kimberley, 79 ; pre- 
fers attacking to man<zuTTing, So ; 
opinion of Boeis, 80 ; croavea 
frontier, 60 ; at Belmont, 81 ; 
forms wrong conclusion, 83 ; at 
Modder River, 83; criticised, 81;; 
calls up reinforcements, 90; hia 
force, 91 ; resolves on frontal at- 
tack at Magersfontein, 91 ,' want 
of *hrfomiation, ^5 ; orders for 
Magersfontein, 95,96; unaware of 
stat^ of alFahrs, itq ) and Magcrs- 
fonteia criticised, iii, ii3, 114, 
It6; collects fresh supplies, 153; 
marches to Kimberley, 304. 

Middelburz, 10, 133,= 

Military administration of Boers, 13. 

Military htstory, lessOns df, 114, 173; 
pergonal quarrels, 339. 

Military service of Boers, 13, 14. 

Military training, faulty British, q- 
a5, 37-39, 131, 318; in India, 34, 

Hobitisation, of British, 3: Boer 
system, 13, 14; rapid British, 43. 

Modder River, acti(» at, 83; and 
pursuit'of Cronje, 161, 16a. 

-Modem fire-arms, 30, 113, 131, 135; 
v, cavalry, 147;' favour defence, 
166, aao; and scouting, 177; 
Boer use of, sao ; in attadc, aai ; 
in defence, 335, 9a6. 

Moss Drift, 991 Yorkshire Light 
Infantry at, 107, ISO. 

Mounted infantry, a ; reason for, 33 ; 
use of, 34, ag; at Colenso, 59; 
Methuen's want of, So ; at Mager*. 
fontein, 106, 107, 118; laige^ in< 
creased, 128; its value, 139; joint 
cavalry, 139 ; omitsto reconnmtre, 
149; loses touch with Cronje, 161, 
168 ; Kitchener orders assaal^ 
193. 

Musketry fire, preference tor ToU^a, 



INDEX. 



277 



24, 28 ; neglected, 27 ; at Elands- 
laagte, 38; Boer at Colenso, 61, 
77 ; Boer at Magersfontein, 107 ; 
Boer at Paardeberg, 183, 184, 187, 
190, 201, 202, 203, 223 ; 19th Bri- 
gade, 190; British did not grasp 
importance of, 218, 2x9; Boer, 
220 ; in attack, 221 ; in defence, 
225, 226. 



Naauwpoort, rail to, 10 ; garrisoned, 

Natal, described, xo; invaded, 2Z\ 
situation in Nov., 1899, 45. 

Naval Brigade, formed, &) ; splendid 
march of, 168. 

Naval guns, necessitv for, 31 ; in 
Natal, 48; bombard Fort Wylie, 
52 ; Butler's orders at Colenso, 
60; and Lord Methuen, 91; at 
Paardeburg, 199, 20X. 

Navy, distribution of, 3. 

Netherlands railway, importance of, 
1 1 ; aids Boers, 22. 

Nicholson's Nek, 40. 

Nineteenth Brigade at Paardeberg, 
189-192 ; 208, 209. 

Norval's Pont, rail to, xo, X3X. 



Obstacles', X12, 113, X33. 

Orange Free State, area, 5 ; pre- 
pares for war, x8; men available 
and«armament, i9-'2i. 

Orange River, 9, 10. 

Outbreak of the war, causes of, x, 3, 
18. 



Paardeberg, Cronje's position at, 
179; 6th Division attacks, x82; 
Highland Brigade attacks, X85, 
180 ; artillery, 182, 184, 189, 195, 
199, 20X, 202, 219, 227; X9th 
Brigade, i89'X92 ; Kitchener or- 
ders assault, X90; assault fails, 
192; exhaustion of troops, 192; 
charge of Mounted Infantry, X94 ; 
i8th Brigade, X94-X96; cavalnr 
division, X96; results of Feb. x8, 
1900, 197; escape possible for 
Boers, X99; British recapture 
Kitchener's Kopje, 203; Boer 
sufferings, 204: Cronje's difficul- 
ties, 204, 207 ; weather, 204 ; Boers 
fail to retake Kitchener's Kopje, 
fl05, 206 ; Royal Canadians attadc, 



208, 209 ; Cronje surrenders, 2x0; 
Kitchener criticised, 2x5-2x8; 
faulty British tactics, 218; and 
German infantry regulations, 22 x ; 
British dash, 222 ; musketry fire, 
225; bad effect of Feb. x8 on 
British, 225, 226. 

Physical features, 8 ; at Colenso, 49 ; 
near Orange River, 79 ; effect of 
on operations, X31-X33. 

Pietermaritzburg, 10. 

Plans of Cami^dgn, Boer, 33; Sir 
G. White's, 32, 39; British, 43; 
change in British, 78; Lord 
Roberts and Kimberley, X30-X32; 
Bloemfontein objective, X30 ; criti- 
cism difficult, X7X. 

Pole-Carew, General, 95, 96; at 
Magersfontein, 104, X05, 115. 

Political considerations, and Go- 
vernor of Natal, 32; influence 
Boer plans, 32, 33; and Lord 
Roberts, X71. 

Population in South Africa, 5. 

Port Alfred, 44. 

Port Elizabeth, xo, 44, X31. 

Potgieter's Drift, 5x. 

Powder, 2X, I2X, 166, X77, 206. 

Press criticisms, falseness of, 2xx, 
2x2. 

Pretoria, rail to, 10, xi. 

Public opinion, and capacity of 
generals, 25 ; and Kimberley, 79, 
17X ; and Lord Roberts, 171. 



Queenstown, rail to, 10 ; occupied 
by small British force, 44. 



Railways, 9-x i ; influence Methuen's 
plans, 86, 91 ; influence operations, 

130. 131. 

Rank, local and temporary, pheno- 
mena of, X56, 2x7; and personal 
friction, 229. 

Rebelliofa, Boer, in 1880, 14. 

Reconi^issance, want of maps, 29 ; 
poor results cif, 29 ; in Natal, 49 ; 
neglected, 74, 75, 84, 90, XX2-XX4; 
X4t, 143, X48, 149, X76, X77; diffi- 
cultvof, 83, 1x2. XX3, X76, X77; 
in force (Magersfontein) useless, 
92, 93; in future wars, 177; and 
artilleiy, 114, 2x9. 

Reinforcements, British, i, 2, 45, 00, 
135; Boer at Paardeberg, X87, 

194* 



278 



INDEX. 



Reprisals, British justified, 21 x. 

de la Rey, in favour of retreat, 86 ; 
and Magersfontein position, 87. 

Ridley, Colonel, 129; loses supply 
column, 150, 151. 

Riet River, French reconnoitres, 139, 

Rifles, Boer supplies of, 19; British 
30; Mauser, 113. 

Roads, 9, 133 

Roberts, Lord, and Sir G. Colley, 
16; his career, 125; arrives Cape 
Town, 127; improves organisa- 
tion, 128; tactical instructions, 
&c., 130; his objective, 130 ; con- 
centrates army, 135, 136; deceives 
Boers, 136 ; reaches Modder River, 
137 ; plan to relieve Kimberley, 
138 ; ensures secrecy, 138 ; orders 
advance, 138 ; loss of supply 
column, 152 ; equal to the occa- 
sion, 152; confined to bed, 156; 
differs from Kitchener, 157; his 
energy, 171; his plans difficult to 
criticise correctly, 171 ; influence 
of public opinion, 171 ; manceu- 
vring V. fighting, 171-174 ; cavalry, 
wrong use of, 172; modern war- 
fare, 172 ; what he ought to have 
done, 172; errors of the Boers, 
174; pursuit and investment of 
Cronje admirably managed, 174; 
secrecy and divisional command- 
ers, 178; sends Kitchener rein- 
forcements, 198; arrives at Paar- 
deberg, 198 ; breaks off armistice, 
198; his plans, 199; orders bom- 
bardment, 199; surrender of 
Cronje, 210; forbids further at- 
tacks at Paardebere, 199, 226 ; 
not justified in this, 226 ; and 
Kelly-Kenny, 229. 

Rodepan, fight near, 139. 



Scandinavian Corps, 84 ; at Magers- 
fontein, 102. 
Schalk Burgher succeeds Joubert, 

47- 
Schofield, Captain, R.A., 67. 

Shooter's Hill (Colenso), 60. 

Signal Hill (Paardeberg), 162. 

Sixth Division, to Naauwpoort, 135 ; 
to Modder River camp, 136; 
reaches Ramdam, 141 ; Riet River, 
143 ; Modder, 144; does not notice 
Cronje's retreat, 156 ; unaware of 
Cronje's position, 167 ; overtakes 
Boers, 167 ; to blame for Cronje's 



retreat, 178; at Paardebefj^, i&K 
184 ; attacked in rear, 187. 

Slocum, Captain, American MlttaiT 
Attach^, and Lord Kifcheiier, 9a6* 

Smokeless Powder, ai, lai, r65, 177. 

South Africa described, 4-9. 

Springfield (Colenso), 57. 

Springfontetn junction, 10^ 13a. 

Spytfontein, Boers occupy, 86. 

Sterkstroom, 52, 127. 

Steyn, President, correspondenoe 
with Kruger, 85 ; his energy, 87. 

Stormberg, rail to, 10 ; action at 
and probable effect of on BuUer, 
52; garrisoned, 78; Gatacre oc- 
cupies, 214. 

Strategy, Sir G. White and Sir W. 
Symons, 32; Boer, 33; British 
explained, 46; and railways, 80; 
and mobility of British, 80 ; and 
Bloemfontein, 130, 132, 134; rapid 
concentration, 136 ; critictsm diffi- 
cult, 171. 

Supplies, system improved, 128; re- 
quired for move on Bloemfontein, 
132; capture of Boer, 142; cap- 
ture of British, 150, 151 ; others 
collected, 152; army on half ra- 
tions, 153; separated from trans- 
port, 169; Kimberley dep6t, 204. 

Symons, General Sir W., strategy of, 
32 ; surprised at Dundee, 33 ; 
killed, 34. 



Tactics, Boer, 12; influence of on 
Orientals. 13; Boer in 1881, 17; 
Boer artillery, 21 ; faulty British, 
23 : preference for shock, 24 ; 
British old-fashioned, 24 ; in India, 
modern, 24 ; influence of Generals 
on, 25 ; British units, 25 ; infantry 
in attack, 26, 195, 197, 215-225 ; 
in defence, 27, 197, 220; British 
traditions affect, 28; night at- 
tacks, 28 ; cavalry and mounted 
infantry, 28, 29; artillery, 2Qi 
cavalry at Talana, 34 ; at Elan<G- 
laagte, 34-38 ; British at Elands- 
laagte were good, 38; British id 
Natal, Oct. 30, 1899, 40 ; and 
Hlangwane Hill, 50; Colensoplan 
of attack, 51 ; Boer artifices, 
Colenso, 57 ; British at Colenso, 
76 ; surprises inevitable in war, 
76 ; Hildyard's at Colenso sound, 
77 ; Boer at Colenso, 77 ; British 
at Belmont, 81 ; pnrsuit impoasi* 



INDEX. 



279 



ble, 81 ; change in Boer, 82 ; 
British at Modder River, 83; 
frontal attacks, 85; Methuen's, 
85 ; recontlaissaoce in force (Ma- 
gerafontein), 92, 93; Methuen't 
plan of attack, 95; Highlanders 
at Maeersfontein,97ri05 ;' Guards, 
106 ; isolated British attacks, 103, 
1x6, I2X ; cavalry, 103, 104, 118; 
artillery, 104, 107, 109, 118; oppor- 
tunity lost, 105 ; Gordons rein- 
force, XO7-XO9 ; Highland Brigade 
retires, 108, 109; Methuen's criti- 
cised, III, 112, 114, 116; un- 
supported frontal attack, 117; 
mounted infantry, 118; British 
leadership criticised, 119 ; lessons 
of Magersfontein, X2i ; and smoke- 
less powder, 121, i^^ 177,206; of 
cavalry division, 140, 142 ; relief 
of Kimberley, 145-147 ; great 
cavalry charge, 146; cavalry v. 
infantry, X47, 177; cavalry in 
attack, 159; remarkable achieve- 
ment of dismounted cavalry, 165 ; 
cavalry on Feb. 16 and 17, 1900, 
166 ; valuable lessons, 166 ; criti- 
cism difficult, 171 ; manoeuvring V. 
fighting, 172-174; 6th Division at 
Paardeberg, 182-184 ; Highland 
Brigade, id., X85, x86; de Wet 
appears, 187 ; his grave error, 226 ; 
X9th Brigade at Paardeberg, 189- 
192, 208, 209; Kitchener orders 
assault, 190; his error, 191 ; charge 
of mounted infantry, 194; i8th 
Brigade, 194-196 ; artillery bom- 
bardment, 199, 20X, 202, 227; 
French recaptures Kitchener's 
Kopje, 203 ; infantry use spades, 
223; Boers fail to retake 
Kitchener's Kopje, 205, 206; re- 
sult of guerilla warfare, 211 ; 
Kitchener at Paardeberg criticised, 
215-218 ; faulty British, 220 ; con- 
tinually changed, 219; lessons of, 
221-224; artillery error, 220; 
British dash, 222; Nttral's Nek, 
224. 

Talana Hill, Boers driven from, 33. 

Telegraphs, field (Boer), 22; field 
(British), 31, 143. 

Theatre of war, described, 5-1 1 ; at 
Colenso, 49, 50 ; near Kimberley, 
79 ; Magersfontein, 87 ; influence 
on tactics, X32 ; and water supply, 
134; pursuit of Cronje, i6x, 162; 
Paardeberg, 179. 



Training, military, faulty British, 
23-25; 27-29, 121, X9X, 218; in 
India, 24, 99, 218. 

Transport, size of British, 79; re- 
organised, 128; required for move 
on Bloemfontein, 132 ; capture of 
British, 156, 151 ; new collected, 
152 ; separated from supply, 169. 

Transvaal, The, area, 5 ; annexed in 
1877, 14; effect of this, 14; inde- 
pendence proclaimed, 14 ; prepares 
for war, 18; men available and 
armament, 19-21. 

Tucker, General, reaches Riet River, 
140; and supply column, 150, 

151. 
Tugela River, 10 ; country near, 49, 

50. 



Ultimatum of Transvaal, 4; time 
. limit expires, 23' 



Vaalkranz, 58. 
Vaal River, 8. 
Van Reenen's Pass, ix. 
Viljoen, B., 19. 

Voetpad's Drift, 92; Yorkshire Light 
Infantry at, 107. 



War, customs of, observance of, 21 1,. 
212. 

War Office, British, and Boers, 11 ; 
Intelligence Division, 18 ; neglects 
experience, 23 ; its good points, 
23 ; difficulties of, 24. 

Wars, Colonial, difficulties of, 23; 
prejudicial effects of, 24, 25, 114; 
artillery in Sudan, 29. 

Water supply, influence of, 91, X34, 
188 ; affects Cronje's retreat, X55 ; 
Boers destroy, 159. 

Waterval Drift, de Wet at, 140. 

Wauchope, General, 97, 100; a true 
hero, loi, 102; death of, 102. 

Weenen (Colenso), 57 ; signalling 
station at, 70, 74. 

de Wet, General Ch., at Waterval 
Drift, 140 ; advice to Cronje, 154, 
200; captures Kitchener's Kopje, 
187 ; Vloriman joins, 202 ; 2,000 
men, 202 ; evacuates Kitchener's 
Kopje, 203; attempts its recap- 
ture, 205, 206; on Cronje's sur- 
render, 2x3 ; grave errors of, 226, 
227. 



28o 



INDOL. ■ 



' 



White, General Sir G., goes to 
Natal, 2 ; arrives Durban, 32 ; his 
force, 32; his strategy, 32; coo- 
centrati-s hit force, 39; di£ficult 
position of, 39 ; defeated on Oct. 
30, 1899, 40; message from Buller, 
70{ inaction explained, 74; re- 
lieved by Buller, 214. 

Winter Hoek, 140. 

Wolseley, Viscount, advice ne- 
glected, 3 ; on manceuvres, 25. 

Wolves Kraal Drift, Gronje reaches, 
i6x ; surprised at, 162. 



Wylie Fort, bombarded, 5a; oa 
bee. 15, 18^, 61, 65. 



Yule, General, succeeds Svmoiis, 34; 
decides to retreat, 38; reaches 
Ladysmith, 39. 



Zulus, defeated by Boer»,ia; change 
of habits, 13 ; war with, 14. 



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